From her activist past to the secret of her perfect pasta sauce, River Café chef Ruth Rogers reveals the stories behind her most precious possessions.
My husband Richard and I have been going to Mexico for Christmas since 1990. We always seek out beautiful folk art creatures such as this giraffe to bring home. We love everything about the country – its architecture, colour, people, food and energy.
I cherish the simplicity of these necklaces – one was from my son Roo, with my son Bo’s name after he died suddenly in 2011. The one with the blue rectangle is from my friend Kadee Ribbons, who I’ve known since we were 18, growing up in New York. I never take them off.
This photograph of me at 18 was taken on a protest in Trafalgar Square in 1968. It was a very political time with the Vietnam war and civil unrest in Paris. I’d just arrived from the U.S and protesting with fellow Americans felt like a unifying thing to do.
I’m never without a jar of Paolo Petrilli organic tomatoes from Puglia and a bottle of the river café’s olive oil, which we source from the same estate where we buy our wine in tuscany. Nothing beats slow-cooked tomatoes for making the ultimate pasta sauce.
As a family we’ve travelled everywhere, from Greece and Rri Lanka to Fiji and Morocco. Being together in a foreign place creates a great bond. We plan our next journey on the way back from the last one – nothing beats getting on a plane or boat for a new adventure.
I keep this Russian porcelain skater girl, a recent gift from Roo, next to my bed. She’s a reminder of the positive presence of the 13 grandchildren (aged three months to 22) in our lives. I constantly learn from them – they teach me to sing, I teach them to cook.
My Italian mother-in-law Dada not only taught Richard and me to cook, she also took up pottery and made us these beautiful vessels. They’re so architectural in themselves – we’ve displayed them in groups on a long shelf in the living room, mixed in with works of art and artifacts.
My team gave me this special chef’s jacket last year to celebrate 30 years of the River Café, which I started with my friend, the late Rose Gray. It signifies how lucky I am to have the people I work with and how those who eat at the restaurant are like family.
The River Café’s three limited-edition gift boxes (filled with specially selected Italian ingredients, including Ruth’s favourite organic tomatoes and olive oil, pictured above, wines and kitchen accessories), from £250, are available to order now from rivercafe.co.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Fiona McCarthy