The River Cafe's Ruth Rogers: 'Do I wish we served cheaper food? I’ve thought about that a lot'

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The nation’s eating habits have changed dramatically since Rogers opened her restaurant – focused on local, seasonal ingredients – 30 years ago. She says chefs aren’t control freaks but things turn frosty when we talk about food inequality …

The River Cafe is so clean, even the air looks as if it’s had a good bath. Smoked glass surfaces shimmer, stainless steel pans gleam; beneath the magenta dome of its wood-fired pizza oven are piled logs so pristine that you half suspect someone was tasked with scrubbing each one with a toothbrush. The restaurant resembles not so much a scene from real life as an artist’s impression of aesthetic perfection.

Its co-founder greets me with the polished warmth of the legendary metropolitan hostess she is. Now Lady Rogers, on account of being married to the celebrated architect Sir Richard, the American-born chef has lived in the UK since the age of 19, but retains the soft, upstate New York vowels of her youth. Her gaze is arresting, and her words waft out of her with appealingly effortless, vaguely hippyish ease. She is solicitous, self-possessed, and for the first few minutes appears perfectly at ease.

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