Page last updated at 03:36 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

River Cafe co-founder Rose Gray dies aged 71

Rose Gray
Rose Gray opened the River Cafe in Hammersmith, west London, in 1987

Rose Gray, co-founder of the River Cafe restaurant, has died at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer.

The chef and cookery writer set up the London restaurant with Ruth Rogers in 1987, earning a Michelin star in 1998.

The pair were credited with influencing the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who both worked at the River Cafe.

Paying tribute, Oliver said: "She really was one of life's very, very special, natural, genius chefs."

Both Mrs Gray and Lady Rogers were appointed MBEs in the most recent New Year Honours for services to the hospitality industry.

Italian food restaurant River Cafe is situated on the River Thames at Hammersmith.

Mrs Gray and Lady Rogers, whose husband is the architect Lord (Richard) Rogers, followed the River Cafe's success with cookery books and a spin-off Channel 4 TV series The Italian Kitchen.

Oliver worked at the restaurant for three years as a sous chef and while there he was discovered by a BBC documentary team.

This led to his own TV series, The Naked Chef, and he has gone on to become one of Britain's best known chefs.

Young cooks

Antonio Carrluccio and Prue Leith on Rose Gray's legacy

He said he was "so saddened" by the death of Mrs Gray, who he described as a "pioneer".

"It was my honour to have worked with her - a really great boss, a wonderful person who gave me some of my fondest cooking memories and great funny times," he said.

"Without question the world has lost one of the most important chefs of our times, she will be sorely missed."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, famous for his River Cottage books and television programmes, spent a brief period as a sous chef at the River Cafe.

Writing in the Guardian, Fearnley-Whittingstall said he was untrained when Gray and Rogers hired him, but "learned more from Rose than from anyone I have ever cooked with".

"Impossible to quantify, though, is the impact on British cooking of the dozens of young cooks who shared the stove with her over the last 20 years and went on to pass just a little of her passion and understanding to others. I feel ridiculously lucky to be one of them," he said.

Gray had four children and listed her hobbies in Who's Who as gardening, wine, travelling and eating.

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River Cafe founders become MBEs
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