Co-founders of the River Café Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers have been awarded MBEs in recognition of their services to the hospitality industry. Gray told James Stagg about the pair's delight at the recognition.
Caterer Congratulations on being awarded an MBE - what does it mean to you?
Rose Gray It's really fantastic. We love the fact that we head the women's honours 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.
Caterer Were you surprised by the award?
RG We weren't expecting it at all. You feel people don't cast their eyes across the catering industry. There are very few honoured from within hospitality so for us to be granted such an honour was extremely surprising and humbling.
Caterer What are your resolutions for 2010, both personally and for the business?
RG We aim to make the restaurant more special and even more interesting, and will continue to make the same personal investment in it. 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.
Caterer The River Café has held a Michelin star since 1998 - are you hopeful of achieving more?
RG Well, obviously we would like two. We don't know whether we'll get there but we certainly think we have the skills, service and creativity to make it. We have inspectors in the restaurant all the time so who knows? We'll just have to wait and see.
Caterer When you spoke to Caterer in 2008, you mentioned the possibility of a "River Café café" - is that still an ambition?
RG At the moment it isn't because after the fire [in April 2008] we had to re-establish the restaurant so all our energies went into not only restoring the restaurant but also working hard to improve it. We invested in some fantastic new equipment, including a new wood oven, as well as a beautiful new kitchen and cheese room, so we were certainly kept busy. The restaurant is such a delightful place to be that we couldn't want more.
Caterer You have famously mentored a number of leading chefs - are there any up-and-coming chefs we should be aware of?
RG We have truly fantastic chefs. They develop slowly and you never know at the beginning but we have a lovely team and I'm sure one or two of them will become stars. Because of the likes of Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Theo Randall we attract chefs that want to follow in their footsteps. They come with real enthusiasm. But they were exceptional - the moment we interviewed them we knew they would be excellent chefs.