“Ruth Reichl & The River Cafe’s Chef Ruth Rogers In Conversation”
Priya Krishna: Hello, I'm food writer and cookbook author Priya Krishna. Did you know that more than 750,000 New York City children are likely to miss two meals a day this summer? When class isn't in session, many children lose access to the free breakfast and lunch that is usually served in schools. The folks at Food Bank for New York City want you to know that, unlike school, hunger doesn't take a break.
Priya Krishna: Help them end hunger by providing meals to families and children in need. Visit foodbanknyc.org to learn how you can volunteer, spread the word and more.
Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe and I'm your host Kerry Diamond.
Kerry Diamond: Each week, we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. Let's thank today's sponsors, Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and Traeger Grills. Speaking of Traeger, we'll be grilling and chilling with Traeger Grills' ambassador Amanda Haas at a special event in Sagaponack at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. Curious what's on the menu and who our other special guests are? I'll let you know during the break.
Kerry Diamond: Housekeeping time. We're headed to Portland, Maine, for the next stop on the Radio Cherry Bombe Food For Thought tour. We'll be there the evening of Monday, July 22nd, for a special live episode of our show. Tickets are on sale right now at cherrybombe.com. Join us for the taping, the snacks, the networking, the special guests, and more. If you don't live in Portland, tell your friends who do. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting our tour. We love your butter and your cheese.
Kerry Diamond: I hope everyone's plastic-free July is going well. I'm doing pretty good at this point. Shopping at the farmers' market has definitely helped me cut down on single-use plastic. I bring my own canvas totes, some old Ziplock bags that I wash and reuse, yes, instead of throwing away, and those great Stasher silicone reusable bags. If you haven't checked out Stasher yet, we're obsessed. I've also started carrying a reusable spoon in my little makeup bag. And of course, I always have a reusable coffee cup. That is a non-negotiable in my life. Don't forget plastic-free July #plasticfreejuly.
Kerry Diamond: Now, to today's episode. We're airing a conversation from Jubilee 2018 between author Ruth Reichl and chef Ruth Rogers of the River Café in London. These two game-changers share more than a first name. They both care deeply about this industry and improving the lives of everyone who works in food. Hearing the two of them talk about how the River Café is run was totally inspiring.
Kerry Diamond: Joining them is special guest Sian Wyn Owen, head chef of the River Café. Enjoy their conversation.
Sian Wyn Owen: Well you're meant to sit there.
Ruth Rogers: I'll sit there.
Sian Wyn Owen: No you're sitting there. Let me know in a moment.
Ruth Reichl: Please.
Sian Wyn Owen: Thank you.
Ruth Rogers: No, you sit there.
Ruth Reichl: Okay, we have an addition because back while we were waiting we started having a conversation, it was so interesting, about how the restaurant is run, that we asked Sian Owens who is Ruthie's partner to join us. And I think it's particularly appropriate because this gorgeous book, and I'm wearing colors to celebrate, I mean just the colors alone. It's a wonderful book but it begins with the most beautiful tribute to Ruthie's late partner, Rose. It's so moving and you said that after she passed away, you took in new partners. So will you introduce Sian?
Ruth Rogers: Yes. This is Sian, and she's the head chef at the River Café 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? And what we did was form a kind of group. There was four of us, two chefs and two managers, and we became, they were the Rose, and very soon afterwards someone approached us with the idea of doing another restaurant in his hotel, and it was very soon afterwards, in every meeting that we went to, they would think maybe I was going to be there and there would be five of us. And so we went to meetings and we formed this group, and it became a really incredible partnership and way of inclusiveness and working out. And so Sian and I are here to do the book, and we're here to do Edible Schoolyard, it's again combining a kind of 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.
Ruth Reichl: So 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 liked to cook opened a communal restaurant, and 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. You hot very big. 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, I'm sure. (laugh)
Ruth Rogers: Yeah, I think the person that wrote that forgot that Italy was part of Europe. (laugh). We would have phone calls saying, "Are you really sure that you're better than this restaurant in Milan, Italian-wise?"
Ruth Reichl: You know, 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.
Ruth Rogers: In the world, yeah.
Ruth Reichl: Which didn't go over very well with the Chinese either.
Ruth Reichl: But, what I wanted to ask was, it's one thing when you start out and you have nine tables and your kids are there and they're all helping out and 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? And how did you handle that, how did you handle that evolution from, "Oh our kids are here helping us make sandwiches," to, "McJagger's on the phone wanting to come have a reservation?"
Ruth Rogers: It's a very long story, the reason this is called River Café 30 is that we recently celebrated our 30th birthday, and at the party my opening line was, "There aren't very many women of my age who can celebrate their 30th birthday." It is a 30 year old story, and to shorten it I would say that, first of all, Rose and I grew with the restaurant. And when people tell me they're going to open a restaurant now, some of our chefs say, they look at me, "I'm going to leave you, Ruthie, I'm going to start my own restaurant," and I think it is really hard.
Ruth Rogers: We were very lucky because we had a beautiful site, we had a very, very restricted ... The restrictions that we had actually helped us grow. So we weren't allowed to open to the public, we were only allowed to be open at lunchtime, and it was a very small space. And I think that we were, as you say, it was Rose and myself. Because we were only allowed to open to a very small group of people, we were restricting the food we could cook. So 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. My husband is an architect and has warehouses where we started, and he very generously gave us, so we had his accountants helping us. And 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 very rigorous. I think that behind creativity and behind joy and behind passion for food, there has to be a rigor, and I think we had that from very early on.
Ruth Rogers: And 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. We could've either just painted it white and grown on but we really invested it and had a private dining room, and so 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.
Ruth Rogers: But we got through it, and I think there are many reasons. Rose and I were there every day, if we wanted to go to work, and I think that 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. I had no restaurant experience at all in other people's kitchens, but Rose had had a little bit here in New York with the McNally's. And then we had people like Jamie Oliver, no not Jamie because he didn't have experience but we had Theo Randall had a bit, we had Sam Clark who had a bit, and then we had people like Sian and Joseph Trivelli and Danny Bowien and the people that came and had really worked in other kitchens, and so we taught them but they taught us. I don't know if that helps.
Ruth Reichl: Still I think learning to manage people is a really hard thing to do and one of the things that really fascinates me, maybe I'm naive 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. And one of the things that you've solved is the front of the house/back of the house dichotomy. So Sian, can you talk a little bit about what happens in the morning when ... ?
Sian Wyn Owen: Yeah, so we, I don't know how many of you have 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 of the year. And so it means that you can actually eat in the restaurant every day if you want to. The theory, you can eat every day without getting bored.
Ruth Reichl: You also said you also change lunch and dinner every day.
Sian Wyn Owen: Yeah, we change it for lunch and dinner, so we do two menu changes every single day, and Rose and Ruth wanted, the original idea was if you went for dinner at someone's house, you wouldn't start cooking for that meal on the Monday if they were coming on the Friday. You'd probably start cooking in the Monday afternoon for dinner that evening. And so that's how we do it in the restaurant, but just for 200 people rather than 20 people, 10 people or something. And so everyone takes a part in preparing the meal, from the kitchen porters, to the chefs, to the waiters.
Sian Wyn Owen: So I sort of come into work and I look at the weather, and in London it's usually raining, but if on the off chance you get a sunny day, you might be like, "Oh, what do I fancy eating today? What have we got in the fridge?" Just like you would do at home, so 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 we've got people that have worked there for a long time, we know they might want to be challenged, but younger chefs need to learn, so we've got lots of ability people. So we kind of look at the team, who's working, what's the weather like, what do I fancy eating most of all ... I always, the first thing I think of, 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 a menu so it's the most luxurious way to cook, that you can just cook what you want to eat times 200 sort of thing.
Sian Wyn Owen: And then we just proportion out all the jobs, so waiters peel potatoes, kitchen porters prepare the fish, the chefs all do the butchery, and then we all cook together to get ready ... The waiters don't cook, the waiters peel garlic, chop chilis, pick herbs, and then we all cook together and at 12 o'clock, the waiters go and change and make sure the tables are all set, the chefs all get onto their sections that change every day, and then we all cook for lunch service. And then we sort of have our lunch and then we write the menu for dinner, and then we do it all again. So we just ...
Ruth Reichl: I'm just fascinated by this notion of waiters doing prep work. That you're all in it together, I mean, 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: When I worked in kitchens where the chefs and waiters would not get on previously, you'd make food for the waiters that no one cared about, because you'd just be like, "It's for the waiters," and there was a kind of divide. But from when I started at the River Café, straight away you see that there's this, that everyone. I don't want to make it sound like it's some kind of ... it's a serious workplace, but everyone gets on because we all sort of share the common goal and everyone's in it together, it's a really unique way.
Ruth Reichl: And 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, 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 and it seems like such a reasonable way to think about this as a profession that everybody is in together.
Ruth Rogers: It also makes being a waiter at the River Café very interesting. And so 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 have it memorized because we've told them. They've prepped it, they'll come to the chef and say, "Are you doing salsa verde today?" And then they'll tell the rest of the team, "Get the parsley, get the capers, get the anchovies," so it makes for ... And also I think one of the things we haven't brought into it is the fact of the architecture of the restaurant.
Ruth Rogers: So it's a very, it's kind of a democratic restaurant. There aren't so-called good tables or bad tables, the chefs are on view which means that the kitchen has a certain kind of 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, it's rather theatrical, and 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 ten feet away. And I think it's the same thing with the waiters, that the waiters can find something they need in the fridge. They need something, well they're involved. And very definitely the receptionist, the kitchen porters as Sian said, that we come in and everything we have is delivered whole. Whole sea bass, whole legs of lamb, whole turbot, whole beef. And so the preparation is also very shared.
Ruth Reichl: I want to come work there.
Ruth Rogers: Yeah. You should!
Ruth Reichl: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back after a quick break.
Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. I'm en route to Sagaponack four our special dinner with Traeger Grills and friends at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. I'm really excited to hang out with chef Kia Damon, chef Elizabeth Karmel, pastry chef Yossy Arefi, the always chic Joey Wölffer, and Traeger Grills ambassador Amanda Haas. The chefs will be cooking each course for the dinner on Traeger grills, from the appetizer to dessert. Want to see what's on the menu? You can follow along on Instagram @cherrybombe. Thank you to the folks at Traeger Grills for supporting tonight's dinner and for supporting this show.
Kerry Diamond: If you're coming to tonight's dinner, I can't wait to see you. Don't forget, try it on a Traeger. Visit traegergrills.com.
Jess Zeidman: Grab your notebooks Bombesquad, we're going back to school this summer with a brand new radio show, CherryBombe University. Each week, we'll be offering crash courses taught by your favorite members of the Bombesquad to get you cooking, eating, and thinking like the smart cookie you are. Thank you to Le Cordon Bleu for making this series possible. You can learn more about Le Cordon Bleu at cordonbleu.edu. See you in class.
Kerry Diamond: And 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. And a few years ago here at Cherry Jubilee, there was a fascinating conversation between Gabrielle Hamilton and Suzanne Goin, and they both said, "We're terrible mothers." (laugh) How did you ... ?
Ruth Rogers: My step son is sitting right there, he can say, am I a terrible mother?
Ruth Rogers: I think actually, my youngest child was four when I opened the restaurant, and Rose had four children, older than mine. And 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: And so I try and take the chef not as a different profession than any other profession and that's something that Sian and I ... That's my job, is to make it so that when you work in the River Café, it's not you have to come in at seven in the morning and turn on the oven, or you have to stay all hours. 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. And 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. So 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 what, 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. We really try and make it as a place ... and 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. Would you like to ... because you're a mother, Sian is a mother now to very young children, one of them is here.
Sian Wyn Owen: I brought my child to work. Which happens to be in New York, so that's very nice. But I think it's also important to make sure that, as I've 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, and now as I'm a head chef, I feel like I have to be really supportive to other women who have kids. You kind of often think, "Well just because you didn't, 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: And 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 I feel like you can feel respectful to us as a kitchen, that 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, and a lot of women have to give up because working at night is very hard because you don't have child care at night if you're a single mother. It's just a very hard job, but I feel proud to think that we actually can facilitate that at the Caf. We make an effort to-
Ruth Reichl: It is a huge problem, when I was the editor of Gourmet and young editors would come and say to me, "I'm pregnant," and I would say, "Are you coming back to work?" And they always said, "Yes," and 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 and 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: You want quality, you also want ... I think running a kitchen you want the quality of life for the men and the women. So you want the chefs, and all the employees not just to be so tunnel visioned that all they're doing is working. So they have to have the good hours, so that they can have a home 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 food that isn't just being in the professional kitchen. Which, when you're working the hours, you lose your passions.
Sian Wyn Owen: So 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. So 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 the job for a very long time.
Ruth Rogers: We also are very engaged with the people who work for us. So, it's quite a small team. We employ probably all together about 90 people, 100 people, but in the kitchen ...
Ruth Reichl: That's a lot.
Ruth Rogers: It's a lot. But they've stayed a long time and we know them, and one of the stories that I like very much was a very, very young chef a few months ago, cut her finger. And she didn't want to go home. She really wanted to work, and then I heard that Sian said to her, "I'm sending you home, and I'm making you go home," and she said, "But why?" And Sian said, "Because one day you're going to be a head chef and I want you to send the person home." And I thought, that's what you call investing in the people who work with you.
Ruth Reichl: Have you read Bill Buford's book, Heat? There's that amazing moment where he cuts his finger and it's like, suck it up.
Ruth Rogers: Yeah.
Ruth Reichl: 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 is a great cook. But I always was interested in food, even as a child, apparently my grandmother was, who died before I knew her but, the story goes in my family, she's Hungarian and 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 first." I think I probably did grow up in a house where food was ... the table was a lot about talk, but there was always good food. 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, buy it for lunch, we'd buy it in the morning, if we were having it at night, we'd buy it in the afternoon. There was a sense of food, the importance of food, so I think with my friends I always loved to cook.
Ruth Rogers: When I moved to London, I loved to cook, and then I got involved with an Italian family, my mother-in-law was an incredible cook. Meryl's great grandmother, and she cooked. She was an Italian who came from Florence during the war, and she learned to cook with what she had. I have to say that very often people turn to me and say, The River Café, all the food before the River Café was terrible, and we changed it, and 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, that didn't have a kind of incredible choice that we have now.
Ruth Rogers: And so she was that kind of cook, and she taught me, she really taught me very Northern, though she came from Florence, she taught me very much more Northern, she came from Trieste as well, Northern cooking. And then we moved to Paris, and I lived above a market and I learned about seasonality, about going down to the market and saying, "There was white asparagus yesterday, where is it?" And they said, "It's gone, but there are melons next week." That idea that you say goodbye to a vegetable or a fruit, and then you say hello to another one, so I think it's been an evolution of cooking and eating and eating and cooking.
Ruth Rogers: And then when I met Rose, she'd lived in Italy, I'd known her a bit before. We came from very different backgrounds, but I would say that it was a great partnership because we loved the same kind of food and knew we only wanted to cook Italian food. We loved to eat Greek and Indian and Chinese, but there’s Italy, and we voted the same way. Our politics were the same. We raised our children really in the same way. And so starting a restaurant together was something that was very natural.
Ruth Reichl: And did knowing artists, being around artists have an impact. Because it's certainly on me. Being around artists who were paying attention in a way, not just to food but to everything.
Ruth Rogers: Yeah.
Ruth Reichl: Who would like walk down a street, I'd be in Europe and they'd be looking at doorknobs and 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. And suddenly each ingredient became more important to me. Obviously, Richard is an architect and you've had all these artists do wonderful drawings at the River Café.
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, and I think being an architect and having friends ... The visual quality of food is as you say, really important. How we plate food in the restaurant, how we make the restaurant bright colors, and in a way in this book with the artist's menus. We went to artists who we were involved with, so there's a mutual friend of ours, Ellsworth 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. And Cy Twombly was for lunch, and we asked them ... So we had these menus that I had of Cy's and Ellsworth's and then we have upstairs, Damien Hirst has a studio right above now, the River Café, and various other artists. So we just ask them to be involved because somehow a cookbook, giving a cookbook another dimension, what do you think about visualness and art in the River Café? Because plating food is so visual, isn't it?
Sian Wyn Owen: Plating, yeah. Because our 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 kind of very particular about the way I see food on the plate, and 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, and in their eyes it is the same, but somehow it hasn't got quite that ... If you move, if you're just going to put a piece of mozzarella on a 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 Café 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, it has a way that's very visual.
Ruth Reichl: Can we talk for a minute about ingredients and ingredients here, 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 she said, "Most Americans can't get lamb." I had a recipe for handmade pasta, 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 from Random House, the blue book, I remembered Jason [inaudible 00:33:07] 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. And it was really restricting, that there was that. But now, and it's the same thing in London, Rose and I literally used to bring ingredients back from Italy.
Ruth Reichl: Oh, you have to tell the pumpkin story.
Ruth Rogers: Oh, the pumpkin story. Were you on that trip?
Sian Wyn Owen: Uh, no. I wasn't on the trip.
Ruth Rogers: So we go every year, the River Café, we take probably ... The only rule is you have to have worked in the River Café two years, but we take altogether about 25 people who work for us to Italy. And so we take all the chefs, 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 kind of exposed to, because people are cooking Italian food, but some of them haven't been to Italy, and this is kind of 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: And so 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. And it's very hard work, I can tell you. That goes on for about three or four days and 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. And so she had this pumpkin that was given to her and when she checked in 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. And so we always say, we went economy and the pumpkin went club. So, um, that was a story.
Ruth Reichl: I love the image of this pumpkin sitting with a seatbelt on.
Ruth Reichl: So I assume when you opened, you were using a lot of ingredients that came from Italy.
Ruth Rogers: Yeah.
Ruth Reichl: Are you still doing that?
Ruth Rogers: Yeah, yeah. I'd like to say that nothing actually comes by airplane for the River Café, 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, and 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. Agretti, no. Agretti we haven't conquered yet, but 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 porchini that I picked in Richmond Park," but to sustain a restaurant that feeds 300 people a day, we can't depend on that. So we have two suppliers that we have more than two, for 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, yeah. 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. We only have about two minutes left.
Ruth Rogers: Yes, yes.
Ruth Reichl: 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: Oh. 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?" And 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, and I love that website Run For It. You're all very young, and you women you should be running for town councilor, and school boards, and whatever you're doing I think that ... So 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 place to end it. Thank you.
Ruth Rogers: Thank you. I think we should have, we've been talking about us, but when 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, and she's an incredible woman, and I feel so privileged to be here with her.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. It's always fun to dip into the archives. And what a moment. Two Ruths under one roof. Say that three times fast. Thanks to all of you who attended, spoke, and volunteered at Jubilee 2018. It was such a special day. Also, thank you to today's sponsors, Traeger Grills and Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Don't forget, we'd love if you could support the Hunger Doesn't Take A Break Initiative from the Food Bank For New York City. Visit foodbanknyc.org for more.
Kerry Diamond: Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Media. Our show is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman. Our special projects director is Lauren Paige Goldstein, our publisher is Kate Miller Spencer, and our intern is Julia Fabricant. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band TraLaLa. Thanks for listening everybody, you're the bombe.
When Harry Met Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Samantha Parquette: Hey everyone, my name's Samantha Paraquette, I'm a food and lifestyle photographer and I'm currently on tour with Outstanding In The Field. Do you want to know who I think is the bombe? Alina Jaskowiak. She's my long time friend and owner of Pine Food Company with her husband and partner Jerry Jaskowiak. Together they nourish and teach the community the importance of eating and supporting local. And their scratch kitchen collaborates with local farms to support their seasonal menu. I am constantly inspired by the both of them and what they have achieved at such a young age and they play a huge role in why I work in the food industry today.