Rose Gray, 71, the founder of the acclaimed River Café, London, with partner Ruthie Rogers, died yesterday after a prolonged battle with cancer.
The restaurant, which has held a Michelin star since 1998 and has been the launch pad for the careers of Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Theo Randall amongst other chefs, is closed today as a mark of respect.
Gray and Rogers were recently awarded MBEs in the 2010 New year's Honours List and Gray was bowled over by the news. She told Caterer: "It's really fantastic. We love the fact that we head the women's honour's list.
"There are many brilliant women out there so it's an incredible honour. It's wonderful for the restaurant and everyone who has worked and is working with us. We are absolutely thrilled."
Jamie Oliver said he was deeply saddened by the death of Gray. "Rose was one of life's very very special, natural, genius chefs; a true pioneer of delicious simple cooking," he said.
"It was my honour to have worked with her - a really great boss, a wonderful person who gave me some of my fondest cooking memories and great funny times. The quality of food and chefs that have left the River Café over the last 20 years speaks for itself and is all credit to the partnership, love and values of Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers.
"Without question the world has lost one of the most important chefs of our times, she will be sorely missed."
The River Café has spawned a host of imitators, but Gray and Rogers were never tempted to expand elsewhere. They became known as always being personally devoted to the restaurant.
In her last interview with Caterer in January, she said that it was always her intention to make the restaurant more special and even more interesting
"It's a restaurant run by two women and we're always there. That gives us the chance to make sure our personal vision is integrated into all we do. I think that's what makes the River Café so special."
By Janet Harmer
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