Every morning, Ruth Rogers sits down with one of her head chefs, Joseph Trivelli or Sian Wyn Owen, at a table by the window. In front of Ruthie will be an oversize notebook open to the day’s page, and on it, she will have listed everything that has come in that morning. They will discuss the particularities of the ingredients, the weather, and what people will want to eat, even the political climate of London, and Ruthie will write, then and there, the day’s menu. Then the day really begins.
Having shadowed Ruthie over several mornings, I’ve gotten to know her kitchen and her staff. She wouldn’t call them staff. They are family. And the atmosphere is unlike any restaurant kitchen I’ve ever visited. An air of ease and affection and democracy permeates the place. Cooks laugh. There’s no shouting, no swearing, no fear. Ruthie works with tireless focus, but despite the absolute precision of her craft, she moves through the room with a nurturing and demonstrative loyalty. She is the restaurant’s maternal force, guiding her team with what educators call positive reinforcement, but which is really, quite simply, love.
When Rose Gray, Ruthie’s founding partner and closest friend, died in 2010, everyone gathered round Ruthie and stayed close. This is a tight-knit family. Come late night, the cooks will push tables together to make one very long one. At the center will be Ruthie, making sure her brood is fed and happy. The River Café is at Thames Wharf, Rainville Road; 44-20/7386-4200; rivercafe.co.uk.
Crab and Raw-Artichoke Salad
1 lemon, halved 7 ounces cooked white crabmeat
2 teaspoons cooked brown crabmeat
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley Salt and pepper to taste
Clean and prepare the artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves, leaving only the pale, tender center leaves. Trim the tops of the artichokes, exposing the choke, and remove with a teaspoon. Trim the stalks and peel with a potato peeler. Rub with half of the lemon to stop them from discoloring.
Combine the white and brown crabmeat with the olive oil, the juice of half the lemon, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the artichokes lengthwise as thinly as possible and add to the crab, stirring to combine. Season again, transfer to a serving plate, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Photo Credit: Ten Speed Press