The Inventory: Ruth Rogers

Ruth Rogers, 63, is the chef and co-founder – with the late Rose Gray – of the acclaimed restaurant The River Café. Married to the architect Richard Rogers, she was appointed MBE in 2010.

What was your earliest ambition?

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York; on the wall of my classroom was a photograph of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. I always wanted to be in that photo.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school, but when I was 16, I went to the Colorado Rocky Mountain School near Aspen, a liberal co-ed school on a working ranch. We had classes for half the day then participated in the workings of the ranch in the afternoons. I loved it. I later went to Bennington, a women’s college in Vermont. In 1965, I came to London and did graphic design at the London College of Printing – I have been here ever since.

Who is your mentor?

I can’t think of one single person but I totally depend on my family, friends and colleagues for any decision I have to make.

How physically fit are you?

Ask Gerry Jackson, my trainer. I work out with him at 7am three times a week. He is the best.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Passion. If you are going to work hard, you must love what you do.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I grew up in the era of JFK and we had to take IQ and fitness tests every year; thankfully they never told you your scores.

How politically committed are you?

My father was a doctor. He went to Spain during the civil war to join the fight against Franco. I grew up in a political home. Politics is in my blood.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

At The River Café, we source our produce seasonally – nothing but the mozzarella comes by plane. Our fish are caught in waters off the British coast and we have a small garden where we grow as many herbs and salad leaves as possible. We filter our own water and recycle all glass and frying oil.

Do you have more than one home?


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

My parents had a beautiful painting by Philip Guston, which they sold in the 1980s. I would love to have it back.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

My children. Why say “no” when you can say “yes”?

In what place are you happiest?

Anywhere with Richard.

What ambitions do you still have?

I wouldn’t mind singing “My Funny Valentine” in a nightclub.

What drives you on?

Every single person I work with in The River Café. They are inspirational.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

To be able to eat a scoop of River Café ice cream whenever I want.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

This is more of a regret. In 1965, I was sitting in a café with my friend in Woodstock, New York. Bob Dylan was at the next table and invited us to come back to his house and watch him rehearse. We said no.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

She’d be surprised I’m still in London as I only came here for six months.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Immediately create another River Café.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, I do.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Only since October 27 2011.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

How can I score satisfaction?

Ruth Rogers was one of three finalists for the 2012 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman award

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.