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Ruth Reichl and Ruth Rogers Transcript

 “Ruth Reichl & Chef Ruth Rogers from Jubilee”

Kerry Diamond:             Hey everyone, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. I hope you all caught Cherry Bombe's Jubilee 2.0 this past weekend. It was the world's very first Instagram food conference and featured so many amazing people. Ina Garten, Alice Waters, Padma Lakshmi, Christina Tosi, Drew Barrymore, Claire Saffitz, Dorie Greenspan, Mashama Bailey, and many others.

Kerry Diamond:             More than 4,000 of you from all 50 states and 63 countries RSVP'd. A big thank you to all of you who followed along and to Kerrygold, Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker, Maple Hill Creamery, the Wines of Rioja, American Express and Resy for helping make Jubilee 2.0 possible.

Kerry Diamond:             One of the day's speakers was legendary author and editor Ruth Reichl, who read from Save Me the Plums, her memoir about her time editing Gourmet Magazine. So many of you were thrilled to hear from Ruth. We thought we'd keep the good vibes going and dip back into the Jubilee archives. Stay tuned for a special Ruth reading and a wonderful conversation between Ruth Reichl and Chef Ruth Rogers from the River Cafe in London.

Kerry Diamond:             We've got a little housekeeping to take care of first. Let's thank our sponsors for today's episode. École Ducasse Culinary School, Smithfield Culinary and the Wines of Rioja. You folks are the bomb. I almost forgot this, on Friday, we're hosting the Jubilee. 2.0 after party on Zoom. It's our first Bombe squad Zoom. We've got a wine hour from 8:00 to 9:00, with some of your favorite people in the wine world. Then from 9:00 to 10:00, we've got the first ever Cherry Bombe Talent Show. If you can sing, rap, play an instrument, email us at or DM us on Instagram.

Kerry Diamond:             We'll pick 10 finalists to perform, the winner will get $1,000 for themselves and $1,000 for the charity of their choice. The other performers will each get $200. Tickets are only five bucks and the ticket proceeds will go to charity. Thank you to Sequoia Grove and Bouvet Ladubay for supporting our after party. I'm very excited. Just for the record, I will not be performing during the talent show, but I hope some of you will be.

Kerry Diamond:             Before we get to today's show, here's a word from École Ducasse. For more than 20 years, École Ducasse has been teaching French culinary and pastry arts to enthusiasts, students, career changers and ambitious professionals from all over the world. The school was established by the legendary chef Alain Ducasse, and for one thing is for sure, at École Ducasse, you can master more than cooking.

Kerry Diamond:             Right now, École Ducasse has some virtual activities going on that you should check out. Like the daily challenge on the École Ducasse Instagram. For every participant in the daily challenge, École Ducasse will donate 10 euros to the fund for the Paris Hospital Foundation. Learn how to make delicious French desserts, such as chocolate mango tart or the ultimate vanilla custard from some incredible instructors for a very good cause. Follow École Ducasse on Instagram and be sure to check out their feed posts. For more on the École Ducasse culinary programs, visit

Kerry Diamond:             Now, here's Chef Grace Ramirez introducing Ruth Reichl.

Grace Ramirez:             Ruth is about to join us to read from her new memoir, Save Me the Plums. The title comes from a William Carlos William poem that I will read. "I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me, they were delicious, so sweet, and so cold." Please welcome Ruth to the stage. Thank you.

Ruth Reichl:                  Do I start by telling you how much Gourmet Magazine has meant to me for most of my life? Like so many people of my generation, I not only learned to cook from the magazine, but it opened a magic door to me that whole world of food was out there waiting. Or do I tell you how frightened I was when I was offered the chance to be the editor of the magazine?

Ruth Reichl:                  I was a restaurant critic who had gotten a certain amount of fame by dressing up in elaborate disguises, and writing about what one snaring critic called little Japanese noodle shops that don't deserve space in the pages of the New York Times.

Ruth Reichl:                  I was a working mom who just wanted a job that would let me go home and cook for my family, and the thought of managing an enormous staff of writers and cooks was really daunting. Who was I to tell 65 people what to do with their lives? Do I tell you what it was like to walk into that magazine and listen to people speaking a mysterious language with words like TOC, and yaffy, and be afraid to admit that I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about?

Ruth Reichl:                  Any of you who are as ignorant about magazines as I was at the time, TOC is table of contents, and the yaffy is you asked for it. In the world of gourmet, both were very important, and it was not reassuring to the staff when I looked at them blankly. Or do I recount the story of my first meeting with a strange and scary owner of Condé Nast, S.I Newhouse, a reclusive billionaire who invited me to lunch at a fancy Italian restaurant. Here's what that was like.

Ruth Reichl:                  With great relief, I saw the waiter approaching our table. He was bearing a large antipasta platter, but as he said it down S.I eyed the dish suspiciously. His nose twitched. "Is there garlic in there?" He demanded. "Yes, sir." The waiter said it with pride. "I can't eat garlic." S.I waved and imperious hand. "Take it away." The waiter looked agitated, "Sir," He drew himself up. "Does that mean the kitchen must avoid garlic in everything?"

Ruth Reichl:                  S.I gazed serenely up at him. "I told you," He said sweetly, "I cannot eat garlic." The way to remain rooted not quite knowing what to do, I studied S.I. When he'd suggested Da Silvano, I'd been charmed. I'd recently reviewed the restaurant saying how much I liked it. It had seemed like an extremely gracious gesture. But now it struck me that an Italian restaurant was a strange choice for a man who shun garlic. How would the chef manage? would he even try?

Ruth Reichl:                  S.I waved at the plate again, and the waiter reluctantly picked up the rejected offering. I watched him hesitate outside the kitchen door, shoulders hunched in despair. He was I knew, stealing himself for the chef's wrath. In 1998, unlike today, restaurants did not routinely ask if you had allergies they should know about and most were oblivious to such requests.

Ruth Reichl:                  Now, I turned to S.I and asked, "Don't you worry that the kitchen will try to sneak some garlic into your food?" S.I Irvin guarded me as if I'd said something remarkably stupid. "No," he said at last. It was my turn to stare. I'd spent years dining out with anxious allergics who not content to arrive at restaurants armed with gluten sensors, epi pens and caffeine monitors, peppered the waiters with excruciating questions. Looking at S.I's complacent face, I realized this was a man who was certain that he would always get his own way.

Ruth Reichl:                  As if to prove it, he said proudly, "Just wait until you see the cafeteria Frank Gehry designed for our new offices." His voice swelled with pride. "He's never built anything in New York before, and I had a hard time persuading him to do it." Not that hard, I thought cynically. "The Conde Nast cafeteria at four times square was rumored to be costing more than $30 million, and, " S.I continued proudly, "George Lang of Café des Artistes will personally oversee the menu." "Will they?" I couldn't resist it, "Be serving garlic?" "Of course not." He seemed genuinely shocked. "I have stipulated that no garlic will ever be served in the Conde Nast cafeteria."

Ruth Reichl:                  My mouth dropped open. I couldn't wait to go home and tell Michael and Nick. What else I wondered how this eccentric man banished from his kingdom? Carnations, trench coats, the color purple? The truth is that is very much what working at Conde Nast was like. I entered a world that resembled Versailles in the time of Louis XIV, complete with fantastically operatic characters who hated each other, and engaged in all manner of palace intrigue.

Ruth Reichl:                  Do I tell you about that? Do I tell you about the way my boss, the editorial director once stood behind the seat of the CEO as the CEO was telling me an elaborate story. James Truman stood there going, "None of this is true. None of this is true." Do I tell you about what it was like when we did a Paris issue and the entire staff flew to Paris to do the reporting? The cooks rented an apartment with a huge kitchen on Île Saint-Louis and spent their nights in restaurants and their days recreating the dishes they'd eaten the night before.

Ruth Reichl:                  Do I tell you about the late night chef parties that lasted until the early morning hours, when the last chef, usually Tony Bourdain stumbled out into the morning? And how much fun it was, and how delicious and how sad I feel that that magical time in American food and publishing is gone, and is not likely to ever come again. Well, perhaps what I should be telling you about is the time a couple of gourmet people decided to write a story about a halal butcher, where you chose a live goat and watched as they sacrificed it before your eyes. This was Ian Knauer and Alan Sytsma who returned from Queens carrying two huge plastic sacks. You could smell them halfway across the building.

Ruth Reichl:                  The reek of the abattoir was so intense, it seemed they had brought the entire contents of the butcher's shop with them. The goats body was still warm, and as they drew closer, the primal scent grew stronger. By the time they reached the kitchen door, the animal funk was overwhelming. Up close, the sharp metallic smell of freshly spilled blood made the hair on the nape of my neck rise. Despite my strong wish not to, I put my hand over my mouth. For a moment, I stopped breathing.

Ruth Reichl:                  I can't believe the guards let you in, I cautiously lowered my hand. They didn't seem happy in admitted, but we flashed our employee passes and ran for an elevator before they could stop us. The doors were just closing. God, I hope it was empty. Ian and Alan exchanged a significant glance. Ian heaved his plastic bag onto the kitchen counter, Anna Wintour was in there.

Ruth Reichl:                  I stared at him fascinated and appalled. What did she do? What could she do? She just kept backing into the corner until she couldn't go any farther.

Ruth Reichl:                  There's so many things I want to tell you about this book, about the insane testing process in the gourmet kitchen, where we did the same dish over and over and over dozens of times, until we finally got it right. About David Foster Wallace and the lobster. About Rocco DiSpirito and the giant fish, about Fran McDormand at Blackberry Farm, and about the very end when S.I abruptly closed the magazine to the shock of so many of us about how the very next day when I was at the airport, I finally realized how much Gourmet Magazine had meant to so many people.

Ruth Reichl:                  The day after the magazine closed, I had to go on book tour for the second big gourmet cookbook. We had been in a state of... We were all shocked and I said, "Everybody come to my house." The entire staff came to my house and we brought all the wine and we drank all night and wept. The next morning my husband said, "Just promise me you'll eat something when you get to the airport." I got out of the car and I stumbled around the Newark Airport in a daze, "Eat," I said to myself. "You promised that you'd eat."

Ruth Reichl:                  I walked into the little sandwich shop and routed through the offerings, picking up a steak sandwich. Maybe it would give me a needed jolt of energy. I went to the cash register, but as I pulled out my wallet, the cashier shook her head. "This one's on me." She said. "I loved that magazine. I'm really going to miss it."

Ruth Reichl:                  Lots of us feel that way about Gourmet Magazine, and that's why I wrote Save Me the Plums. Thank you.

Kerry Diamond:             Thank you to Ruth Reichl, if you haven't read Saved Me the Plums or Ruth's other books, get in touch with your favorite local bookstore. Ruth is one of my absolute favorite authors and her books are a very comforting read, especially at a time like this. We'll be right back with two Ruths after this quick message.

Kerry Diamond:             Smithfield Culinary knows this is a difficult time for all of us, including their food service partners. That's why they are doing what they can to help. They're redoubling their backing of Children of Restaurant Employees, a charitable foundation dedicated to the assistance of restaurant employees and their families. Additionally, Smithfield Culinary is doing dedicated to the support of local operators via their continuing promotion of the Great American Takeout. The Smithfield Culinary team knows there's a long road ahead of us, and it's not going to be easy, but we'll get through this together.

Kerry Diamond:             Learn more about CORE, Children of Restaurant Employees and how you can help find them on social media @coregives.

Kerry Diamond:      Now, here's Ruth Rachel and Chef Ruth Rogers in conversation.

Ruth Reichl:                  We have an addition because back in... While we were waiting, we started having a conversation that was so interesting about how the restaurant is run that we asked Sian Owens, who is Ruthie's partner to join us. I think it's particularly appropriate because this gorgeous book, and I'm wearing colors to celebrate... It's just the colors alone, and the rest... It's a wonderful book, but it begins with the most beautiful tribute to Ruthie's late partner, Rose.

Ruth Reichl:                  It's moving. You said that after she passed away, you took in new partners. Will you introduce Sian?

Ruth Rogers:                Yes. This is Sian Owen, and she's the Head Chef at the River Cafe and my partner. The loss of Rose is incalculable, and it was for all of us, in a very small family, it was something that we were prepared for, but then how do we continue?

Ruth Rogers:                What we did was form a group... There's four of us; two chefs, and two managers. We became... They were the Rose, we know. Very soon afterwards, someone approached us with the idea of doing another restaurant in his hotel. I think it was very soon afterwards, and every meeting that we went to, they would think maybe I was going to be there, and there'd be five of us. We went to meetings and we formed this group, and it became really an incredible partnership and way of inclusiveness and working out.

Ruth Rogers:                Sian and I are here to do the book, and we're here to do Edible Schoolyard. It's again, combining a social involvement and a responsibility that we have for society, for values, for education, with the excitement of doing our recipes and the story of a restaurant.

Ruth Reichl:                  It's so interesting because let's go back a little bit to how you opened the restaurant in the first place, because it seems to me that it's such an example of how differently women do things than men. You're not a chef, Rose wasn't a chef. You were women who liked to cook, in some ways reminds me of what I did in Berkeley. A group of us who like to cook open a communal restaurant, and it was just, none of us were trained, we just loved food and liked to cook, and wanted to feed people, but something happened to you, which did not happen to us. The Swallow lasted for 15 years, but we never really got famous or got big.

Ruth Reichl:                  You got very big and famous. The New Yorker in 1987 called you the best Italian restaurant in Europe.

Ruth Rogers:                That got us into a lot of trouble with the Italians.

Ruth Reichl:                  I'm sure.

Ruth Rogers:                I think they the person who wrote that forgot that Italy was part of Europe. We would have phone calls saying, "Are you really sure that you're better than this restaurant in Milan? Italian wise?"

Ruth Reichl:                  The New Yorker has a history of doing that. They did it with the Hunan Restaurant in San Francisco in 1970, where they called this little restaurant run by a former airline executive who was not a chef, but who was cooking the first really spicy food in San Francisco, they called it the best Chinese restaurant in the world in the world, which didn't go over very well with the Chinese either.

Ruth Reichl:                  What I wanted to ask was, it's one thing when you start out, you have nine tables and your kids are there and they're all helping out. It's kind of a family affair, but the moment that's really hard for most of us, and I've experienced this some in my life is what happens when you get bigger? How did you handle that? How did you handle that evolution from our kids are here, helping us make sandwiches to Mick Jagger's on the phone wanting to come have a reservation?

Ruth Rogers:                It's a very long story. Recently... The reason this is called River Cafe 30 is that we recently celebrated our 30th birthday. At the party, my opening line was, "There are very many women of my age who can celebrate their 30th birthday." It is 30 year old story.

Ruth Rogers:                To shorten it, I would say that, first of all, Rose and I grew with the restaurant. When people tell me that they're going to open a restaurant now, some of our chefs say, "I'm going to..." They look, "I'm going to leave you with Ruthie, I'm going to start my own restaurant." I think, it is really hard. We were very lucky because we had a beautiful site. We had a very very restricted... The restrictions that we had actually, I think helped us grow. We weren't allowed to open to the public. We are only allowed to be open at lunchtime.

Ruth Rogers:                It was a very small space. I think that we were, as you say, we were very... It was Rose and myself, we had... Because we were only allowed to open to a very small group of people, we were restricted to the food we could cook. We had a short menu. One of us would do sandwiches, one of us would do pasta. We had a grill, we had a fryer and we had four hot plates, but I think we had two things. One was we had ambition, and the other one was that we had control.

Ruth Rogers:                My husband is an architect and his warehouses were where we started. He very generously gave us, so we had his accountants helping us. I know it doesn't sound very romantic, but even in the first day, if I had a coffee, I paid for the coffee. Friends came to lunch, I paid for lunch. Usually, I paid for lunch, but they came... It was just a very rigorous.

Ruth Rogers:                I think that behind creativity and behind joy and behind passion for food, there has to be a rigor. I think we had that from very early on. Then the stages that we had, as I said... One of my favorite, if I may, but one of my favorite pages in the book, dare I say not a recipe is this diagram which actually shows how we grew. I don't know if you can see it. But basically it starts in '87 with as Ruth said, six tables, and then in '94, is it '94? We grew and we had a proper kitchen, and then we had a kitchen and a bar and then we had a fire in 2008, when the restaurant... We could have either just painted it white and gone on, but we really invested it and had a private dining room.

Ruth Rogers:                I don't know if that answers your question. It was a struggle. We almost closed three years after we opened because, however careful we were, it was very difficult to be small, to be cheap, and to be closed most of the time was a very hard recipe, but we got through it. I think... There many reasons. Rose and I were there every day, if we wanted to go to work... I think that's still is the case, if I want to go to work, then you hope that everybody who works with you will want to go to work.

Ruth Rogers:                Rose and I had... I had no restaurant experience at all in other people's kitchens, but Rose had a little bit here in New York with the McNally's and then we had people like Jamie Oliver... Not Jamie, because he didn't have experience, but we had Theo Randall who had a bit, we had Sam Clark, who had a bit. We had people like Sian and Joseph Trivelli, Danny Bowen and the people that came in had really worked in other kitchens. We taught them but they taught us does. I don't know if that helps.

Ruth Reichl:                  Still, I think learning to manage people is a really hard thing to do. One of the things that really fascinates me, maybe I'm naïve in this, but when we were talking earlier, the way that your restaurant runs, it seems to me is very different than the way any restaurant in America that I know, runs. One of the things that you've solved is the front of the house, back of the house dichotomy. Sian, can you talk a little bit about what happens in the morning when-

Sian Wyn Owen:           I don't know how many of you been to the River Café, but we write the menu every single day, twice a day for lunch and dinner every day of the week, every 360 days a year. It means that you could actually eat in the restaurant every day if you want to. The theory, you can eat every day without getting bored.

Ruth Reichl:                  But you also said you also change lunch and dinner every day.

Sian Wyn Owen:           We change it for lunch and dinner. We do two menu changes every single day. Rose and Ruth wanted... The original idea was if you went for dinner in someone's house, you wouldn't start cooking for that meal on the Monday, if they were coming on a Friday, you'd probably start cooking in the Monday afternoon for dinner that evening. That's how we do it in the restaurant, but just for 200 people rather than 20 people, 10 people or something.

Sian Wyn Owen:           Everyone takes apart and preparing the meal from the kitchen porters to the chef's to the waiters. I'll come into work, and I look at the weather, and in London, it's usually raining but on the off chance you get a sunny day, you might be like, what do I fancy eating today? What have we got in the fridge? Just like you would do at home. You're like, what have I got in the fridge? Who's working today? What's the level of the experience of the chefs? If you've got people that have worked there for a long time, we know they might want to be challenged, but younger chefs need to lean. We've got lots of ability people.

Sian Wyn Owen:           We look at the team, who's working, what's the weather like? What do I fancy eating, most of all. First thing I think when I probably like most of you when you wake up, what do I want to eat today? Then I can go to work and write it on the menu. It's the most luxurious way to cook that you can just cook what you want to eat and times 200 sort of thing.

Sian Wyn Owen:           We just proportion out all the jobs. Waiters peel potatoes, kitchen porters prepare the fish, the chef will do the butchery and then we all cook together to get ready for... The waiters don't cook, the waiters peel garlic, chop chili's, pick herbs, and then we all cook together. At 12 o'clock, the waiters go and change and make sure the tables are all set. The chefs will get on to their sections that change every day. Then we all will cook for lunch service. Then we have our lunch, then we write the menu for dinner, and then we do it all again. We just-

Ruth Reichl:                  I'm just fascinated by this notion of waiters doing prep work. That you're all in it together. It's such a radical idea, compared to the way most American restaurants are run, where the kitchen does one thing and the front of the house does something completely different.

Sian Wyn Owen:           I've worked in kitchens where the chefs of waiters would not get on, previously. You'd make food for the waiters that you just don't care about, because you'd be like, it's just for the waiters. There was a divide. But from when I started the River Café, straightaway you see that. This is everyone. I don't want to make it sound like it's some kind of... It's serious workplace but everyone gets on because we all share the common goal. Everyone's in it together, it's a really unique way.

Ruth Rogers:                For the customer, the idea that a waiter isn't just repeating what the chef said and tonight we have these specials, but they've actually been in there yeah doing it. We're struggling so hard to figure out the tipping and how you equalize the pay between the front of the house and the back of the house. It seems like such a reasonable way to think about this as a profession, that everybody is in together.

Ruth Rogers:                But also it also makes being a waiter at the River Cafe very interesting. You'll have waiters who actually if they're not that interested in food, then they really find it boring to do that work in the morning, but we've had very few. Mostly what you get is very informed and engaged waiters, who as I said, if somebody eating there says, "What's salsa verde?" They just haven't memorized it because we've told them, they've prepped it. They knew they'll come to the chef and say, "Are you doing salsa verde today?" Then they'll tell the rest of the team, get the parsley, get the capers, get the anchovies.

Ruth Rogers:                It makes for... Also, I think one of the things we haven't brought into it is the fact of the architecture of the restaurant. It's a democratic restaurant. There are what you call good tables or bad tables there. The chefs are on view, which means that the kitchen has a certain manners, that you don't shout, that you keep it clean, that you move around. People, if you watch, I once said to a friend of mine, it's rather like a... It was a director, so it's rather theatrical. He said, it's more like ballet because you'll see the chefs moving around because they can't shout, because you might have a table 10 feet away.

Ruth Rogers:                I think it's the same thing with the waiters, that the waiters can find something they need in the fridge, or they need something or they're involved. Very definitely, the receptionist, the kitchen porters, as Sian said, that we come in and everything we have is delivered whole. Whole sea bass, who legs of lamb, whole turbot, whole beef. The preparation is also very shared.

Ruth Reichl:                  I want to come work for you.

Ruth Rogers:                You should.

Kerry Diamond:             We'll be right back after this quick break. Hi Bombe squad, let's go on a trip to Rioja, the premier wine making region in Spain that's home to more than 600 wineries. Rioja produces an incredible range of styles; reds, whites, roses, and my favorite, sparkling wines. Tempranillo is Rioja's hallmark grape. Indigenous to Spain, Tempranillo is elegant and versatile and can be found in every expression of Rioja.

Kerry Diamond:             Rioja's food friendly wines pair beautifully with light bites, stand up to spice and compliment richer dishes. What do I love most about Rioja? The wines are released when they are ready to drink. Every bottle of wine from Rioja is marked with a color coded seal indicating how long it has been aged according to Rioja's unique aging classification system. Cheers to that. For more, visit\us. Now back to Ruth and Ruth.

Ruth Reichl:                  The other big problem we have in this country is... The problem for women chefs is motherhood. A few years ago here at Cherry Jubilee, there was a fascinating conversation between Gabriel Hamilton and Suzanne Going, and they both said we're terrible mothers, because it's... How did you-

Ruth Rogers:                My stepson is sitting right there, he can say, "Am I terrible mother?" Actually, my youngest child was four when I opened the restaurant, and Rose had four children older than mine. I would like to liken it, whenever people say, is it hard for women being a chef? Is it hard for women cooking differently? I'd say... It's usually journalists who ask me and I say, "Well, it's hard to be a journalist, isn't it? Isn't it hard to be a lawyer? Isn't it hard to be an architect? Isn't it hard to have children and work?"

Ruth Rogers:                I try and take being a chef, not as a different profession than any other profession. That's something that Sian and I, that's my job is to make it so that when you work in the River Cafe, it's not you have to come in at 7:00 in the morning and turn on the oven or you'll have to stay all hours, or you'll have to do... It's our job to make it possible for men and women to have children to work, to have a life and be a chef.

Ruth Rogers:                I think that myth of the idea of being a chef is an impossible job has to change or we'll never get the right people to work for us. I think in the River Café and Sian who really runs it can talk more, but from the day that Rose and I started, every chef has two days off. No chef works more than, we say five or six shifts a week. We have women who have children who have chosen to do less. If you have a double then you don't do the next morning.

Ruth Rogers:                We really try and make it as a place that... We're very professional, we're not a touchy feely, we're too expensive to be like, "Oh, sorry, we didn't finish the pasta sauce." It's a very rigorous job. Sian, would you like to say, because your mother... Sian, is a mother now to very young children, one of them is here.

Sian Wyn Owen:           Yeah, I put my child to work, which happens to be in New York, so that's very nice. But I think also it's really hard... It's also important to make sure that, as I have been a chef for 25 years, and I've seen how coming up the ladder, how it appeared to be so difficult to have kids and be a chef. Now, as I'm a head chef, I feel like I have to be really supportive to other women who have kids. You often think, well, just because you didn't... Maybe not at the River Café, but haven't had that on your way up, it doesn't mean you shouldn't see past that when you're actually there.

Sian Wyn Owen:           We've had a few women in the kitchen who've just gone off to have babies and actually really proudly, I feel like we've actually really looked after them appropriately and pay them through... I feel like you can feel respectful to us as a kitchen, that we can actually do... We're fortunate enough that we can afford to do it, but also there's no option for it, if you want women to be chefs. A lot of women have to give up because working at night, it's very hard because you don't have childcare at night, if you're a single mother. It's a hard job, but I feel proud to say that we say that we actually could facilitate that at the café. We make an effort to-

Ruth Rogers:                It is a huge problem, not just in this, but when I was the editor of Gourmet and young editors would come and say to me, "I'm pregnant." I would say, "Are you coming back to work?" They always said, "Yes." My classic response was, "Now, you're going to understand what true guilt is." Because no matter where you are, you feel like you should be somewhere else. Trying to make a workplace where if a kid gets sick, or there's no school and they can bring them... It's really a problem that we as a society have to deal with and deal with soon, because women shouldn't have to go through the, "Oh my God, the school just called, I have to leave work and I'm in the middle of something else." We really need to figure out how to make the workplace everywhere.

Sian Wyn Owen:           Do you want quality... I think running the kitchen, you want the quality of life for the man and the woman. You want the chefs, and all the employees that have not just to be so tunnel vision that all they're doing is working. They have to have a good hours so that they can have a whole life, and they can read about cooking and they can eat out and they can cook at home, and they can have a dialogue with foods, that isn't just being in the professional kitchen, which when you're working the hours, you lose your passion.

Sian Wyn Owen:           The reason you go into a pretty badly paid job to begin with, is because you're passionate about food, but then you can't sustain it because you're working too long hours. We really pride ourselves on the fact that people can have a home life as well across the board, so you love coming to work, you love going home. There's no shame in saying actually, "I want to go home. I'm looking forward to cooking something tonight at home for my friends." That is the best thing if you can have that balance, then you can work in a job for very long time.

Ruth Rogers:                We also are very... I think we are very engaged with people who work for us. It's quite a small team. We employ probably altogether about 90 people, 100 people, but in the kitchen-

Ruth Reichl:                  That's a lot.

Ruth Rogers:                That's a lot, but they've stayed a long time, and we know them. One of the stories that I like very much is a very, very young chef a few months ago, cut her finger, and she didn't want to go home. She really, she wanted to work. Then I heard that Sian said to her, "I'm sending you home, and I'm making you go home." She said, "But why?" Sian said, "Well, because one day you're going to be a head chef, and I want you to send the person home." I thought that's what you call about investing in the people who work with you.

Ruth Reichl:                  Have you read Bill Buford's book, Heat?

Ruth Rogers:                Yes.

Ruth Reichl:                  There's that amazing moment where he cuts his finger and it's like, suck it up.

Ruth Rogers:                Yeah.

Ruth Reichl:                  Okay, let's dial this back. How did you get interested in food in the first place?

Ruth Rogers:                I married an Italian, I suppose. That helped, and his mother was a great cook. But I always was interested in food as a child. Apparently my grandmother was, who died before I knew her, but the story goes and my family is Hungarian. She came to see her first grandson, and my mother's there and said, "Do you want to see the baby?" She said no, "Let's eat." I think I probably did grew up at a food warehouse where food was... The table was a lot about talk but there was always good food.

Ruth Rogers:                I grew up in upstate New York. I think we learned about seasonality, not through sophistication, but I just knew that if we were having corn for lunch, we'd buy it in the morning, if we were having at night we would buy it in the afternoon. There was a sense of food, the importance of food. I think with my friends, I always loved to cook. When I moved to London, I loved to cook. Then I got... As I said, I got involved with an Italian family. My mother-in-law was an incredible cook, Merrill's great grandmother and Seth's grandmother. She cooked. She was an Italian who came from Florence during the war.

Ruth Rogers:                She learned to cook with what she had. I have to say that very often people turn to me and say, all the food before the River Cafe was terrible. We changed it to... I think there were a lot of us who did change it, but I also have a lot of respect for a country that was coming out of the war that had no food, that had rationing, that had to cook with what was available, but didn't have an incredible choice that we have now.

Ruth Rogers:                She was that kind of cook. She taught me, she really taught me very northern, although she came from Florence, she taught me very much more northern. She came from Trieste as well, northern cooking. Then we moved to Paris and I lived above a market, and I learned about seasonality, about going down to the market and saying, "I thought there was white asparagus yesterday, where is it?" They said, "It's gone but they're melons next week." That idea that you say goodbye to a vegetable or a fruit, and then you say hello to another one.

Ruth Rogers:                I think it's been an evolution of cooking and eating and eating and cooking. That really... Then when I met Rose, she had lived in Italy. I'd known her before. We came from very different backgrounds, but there was a... I will say, there was a great partnership because we love the same kind of food, we knew that we only wanted to cook Italian food. We loved to eat Greek and Indian and Chinese but Italy.

Ruth Rogers:                We voted the same way. Our politics were the same. We raised our children really in the same way. Starting a restaurant together was something that was very natural.

Ruth Reichl:                  Did knowing artists, being around artists have been... Because it's certainly on me, being around artists who were paying attention in a way that I would... Not just to food but to everything, who would walk down a street and I'd be in Europe and they'd be looking at doorknobs. Suddenly, that attention got focused on food in this same way. For me, that was also really a change, to suddenly be around people who thought that everything that you did was important and what I could do was cook. Suddenly, each ingredient became more important. It seemed... You've been... Obviously Richard is an architect and you've had all these artists do wonderful drawings at the River Cafe.

Ruth Rogers:                Rose taught art. She was an artist and there's some very beautiful drawings that she did in the book. I was a graphic designer. I think being an architect and having friends... The visual quality of food, as you say, is really important. Say, how we plate food in the restaurant, how we make the restaurant bright colors and how we use... In a way, in this book with the artists menus, we went to artists who... Artists who we were involved with.

Ruth Rogers:                There's a mutual friend of ours, I was with Kelly, when he ate in the restaurant, drew on a menu. He went into the bathroom and took the menu, and did a self-portrait on the back of a menu. CY Twombly was having for lunch, and we asked them.

Ruth Rogers:                We had these menus that I had of CY's and Ellsworth's. Then we have upstairs, Damien Hirst has a studio right above now the River Cafe and various other artists. We just asked them to be involved because somehow a cookbook, giving your cookbook another dimension. What do you think about visualness and art in the café? Because plating food is so visual isn't it?

Sian Wyn Owen:           Plating, yeah, because food is very simple as well. It looks on the plate... Not too many ingredients and actually, the simplicity of that, the plate has to be a beautiful white, clean plate. I'm very particular about the way I see food on the plate. Sometimes I'll plate a dish and show the guys how you want it to be, and then they'll do what they think is the same. In their eyes, it is the same, but somehow it's hasn't got quite that... If you're just going to put a piece of mozzarella on the plate with some zucchini and a bruschetta, once you move that on the plate, it starts to... There's a way that we learn to do it, and we have a very strong River Cafe style, where you know you're not going to get in trouble, but there is a house style that is very clean and beautifully plated with the most simple ingredients, but just has it has a way that's very visual.

Ruth Reichl:                  Can we talked for a minute about ingredients. Ingredients here have in my lifetime changed unbelievably. What you can get in New York now compared to when I wrote my first cookbook in 1972, my editor didn't even want me to use lamb, because he said, most Americans can't get lamb.

Ruth Reichl:                  I had a recipe for handmade pasta, which just seemed... My editor wanted me to leave it out, because who would do that?

Ruth Rogers:                Well, when we did the first book here, Rose and I, the Random House, the blue book, I remember Jason Epstein telling us that there was a recipe checker who lived in a town in Maine, and every ingredient had to be available 50 miles away from her house.

Ruth Reichl:                  In Maine?

Ruth Rogers:                Yeah. It was really restricting that there was that. But now... It was the same thing in London, Rose and I literally used to bring ingredients back from Italy.

Ruth Reichl:                  You have to tell the pumpkin story.

Ruth Rogers:                Oh, the pumpkin story.

Ruth Reichl:                  Were you on that trip?

Sian Wyn Owen:           I was on the trip.

Ruth Rogers:                We go... Every year, the River Cafe, we take probably... The only rule is you have to have worked in the River Cafe two years, but we take altogether about 25 people who work for us to Italy. We take all that The chef's go in November, we go to taste the new oil, to choose the new olive oil, and then we take a group to Piedmont, or we take a city trip so that everybody's exposed to... Because people are cooking Italian food but some of them haven't been to Italy and we have... This is diverging from your question, but they all then experience the very close relationship we have with the people that produce the wine, especially in Tuscany and Piedmont.

Ruth Rogers:                We go on a trip and we taste the olive oil, we taste the wine, we eat, we eat, we eat, get on the bus, taste the olive oil, taste the wine, eat and eat and eat. This goes... It's very hard work, I can tell you. That goes on for about three or four days. On one of the trips, Rose was given an enormous pumpkin because we really celebrate the pumpkin when it's in season with stuffed pasta or soup.

Ruth Rogers:                She had this pumpkin that was given to her. When she checked it in British Airways, they wouldn't let her on the plane with the pumpkin and the only seat available was a business class, club class seat. We always say we went economy, and the pumpkin went club. That's the story.

Ruth Reichl:                  I love the image of this pumpkin sitting-

Ruth Rogers:                With its seatbelt on.

Ruth Reichl:                  I assume when you opened, you would be using a lot of ingredients that came from Italy. Are you still doing that?

Ruth Rogers:                Yeah, we have... I'd like to say that nothing actually comes by airplane to the River Cafe, except for the mozzarella, which is flown in from Naples twice a week. Because all our fish and all our meat is sourced within the waters of Great Britain and the farms in England, Scotland, Wales. But if we were to depend on the British agricultural market for our vegetables, it would be very, very difficult. It's changing. We have brought seeds back for certain cavolo nero, I'm regretting we haven't conquered yet.

Ruth Rogers:                Also, I think British farmers are becoming... We have small market gardeners, we have gardeners who are in their kitchen gardens, growing vegetables, we have people come to the door and say I have some porcini that I picked in Richmond Park. But to sustain a restaurant that feeds 300 people a day, we can't depend on that. We have two suppliers that are even more than go to the Milan Market, and bring back the agretti, the Romana artichokes.

Ruth Reichl:                  Is Brexit going to have an effect on the restaurant?

Ruth Rogers:                We're terrified of Brexit. It's a real worry. I think it'll be probably, we don't know yet... The main problem... You don't want to get me started on Brexit.

Ruth Reichl:                  Okay, I don't. We only have about two minutes left.

Ruth Rogers:                Okay, go on.

Ruth Reichl:                  Yes. I want to ask you what's it like to be an American living in England at this particular moment in American history?

Ruth Rogers:                Well, I can answer that, because very often people come up to me and they say, especially my American friends, "You are so lucky, and aren't you happy to be away from the United States this time?" My answer is that after 40 years in Britain, I've never wanted to be here more, because I feel the only thing that we all have to do is be active. The only thing we can do to keep these values that we cherish is to be engaged and involved.

Ruth Rogers:                I love that website, Run4It, we should all... You're all very young, and you women should be running for town counselor and school boards. Whatever you're doing, I think that... I'm trying to do it in my own little way. We have dinners, we have meetings, Democrats abroad, and I'm going to come back for the midterms and knock on every door I can.

Ruth Reichl:                  That's a perfect way to end it. Thank you. I think we should have... We've been talking about us, but I think... Well, I got the message from Becca, that we were going to be... From everyone here, that we were going to be sitting down with Ruth Reichl. It just was so exciting because I know her work, I've read her books. Gourmet started all of us on an incredible trajectory of food. She's an incredible woman and I feel so privileged to be here with her.

Kerry Diamond:             That's it for today's show. Thank you to Ruth Reichl for always being a part of Jubilee. We love you Ruth. To Chef Ruth and Sian, we hope you and the rest of the London Bombe squad are doing okay. Thank you to a École Ducasse, Smithfield Culinary and the Wines of Rioja for supporting this show.

Kerry Diamond:             Radio Cherry Bombe is edited and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Don't forget, Jubilee 2.0 After party and Cherry Bombe Talent Show. Tickets are $5 on sale now and it's all going down on Zoom on Friday the 17th. Hang in there, everybody, and thank you for listening. You are the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sallly Clip:       I'll have what she's having.

Kristin Nelson:              Hi, my name is Kristin Nelson and I'm the owner of the Ardent Homesteader, in Arden, New York. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Karen Washington from Rise & Root Farm because she is a powerful combination of farmer and activist.