Ruth Rogers: 'You can tell a chef’s skill from the way they make a pasta pomodoro'


Rogers is chef-owner of the River Café in London. She co-founded the restaurant with the late Rose Gray, with whom she also wrote books (the million-selling River Café cookbooks) and shared a Michelin star. Although her protégés included Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, Rogers is not a trained chef herself. Last year Rogers was a finalist for Veuve Clicquot's Business Woman Award last year and now sits on the awards panel, which recognises successful female entrepreneurs worldwide.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

At home, my most used thing is a cast-iron grill pan. It is double-sized and ridged and it's the best way to grill meat or fish at home. Least used? My toaster. I don't like toast.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would go to Maison du Chocolat and get £10 worth of chocolate. I don't like truffles, so I would get the bars. I love chocolate but I don't eat a lot of it, so what I do eat I want to be the best.

What do you eat for comfort?

Ice cream. It has to be caramel and made by me – I only like it from the River Cafe. But if I wanted something warm and comforting I would cook myself a risotto.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Potatoes. I like them with olive oil, buttered, or spiced or just cooked in the oven with different vegetables. Or turned into potato gnocchi. Plus there are so many different types of them. It was really exciting when I went to Peru and was told they had 89 different kinds of potato. If I didn't have to eat another piece of bread in my life I would be fine.

What's your desert island recipe?

Tomato pasta. Of all the pastas it is the greatest. If you ask an Italian what they want they will say pasta pomodoro. You can tell a chef's skill by how they make it – what tomatoes they use, how long they cook them for, the amount of olive oil they put in. I never tire of tomato pasta.

What's your favourite restaurant?

That's really hard. I am going to choose one not run by any of my friends in Britain. So I choose Restaurant Gianni Franzi, it is in a very small town called Vernazza, which is between Genoa and Pisa. It is all that I love. Everything is bought from the villages surrounding. It is all so fresh and relaxed, but lively, and you have your table for as long as you like. It is my favourite place in the world.

What's your favourite cookbook?

I would probably say Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook. But also, as an American who started cooking French food, I grew up on Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. It's not what I cook now, but it taught me to cook with rigour and discipline.

Who taught you to cook?

Dada Rogers, my mother-in-law. She was an Italian woman who came here during the war from Florence, and she had a great tradition of eating very well. When she died her last words were: "put cream on your face and not so many herbs on your fish". It is good advice.