Top chefs have paid tribute to River Cafe co-founder Rose Gray, who died yesterday following a battle with cancer.
The 71-year-old chef was hugely respected on the London dining scene after setting up the iconic Hammersmith restaurant with partner Ruth Rogers 22 years ago.
The River Cafe was closed today as a mark of respect to Rose, who along with Ruth was awarded an MBE earlier this year for services to the hospitality industry.
Together they built the restaurant into an internationally recognised destination, insisting on retaining and refreshing it as a single venture rather than developing it as a franchise.
TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who trained at the River Cafe 20 years ago and went on to develop his own River Cottage brand, said Rose was a 'brilliant person' as well as being a 'brilliant cook'.
He said: "She has given so much to food and to cooking, and to all who have worked with her over the years. Working for her and Ruth at the River Cafe 20 years ago changed the course of my life, and it's no exaggeration to say that River Cottage simply would not have existed without her influence.
"So much of what we do here goes back to what I learned at the River Cafe - that in cooking, nothing counts more than the best ingredients; that simple forms of cooking that honour ingredients are not only the most enjoyable and satisfying, but in the end the most exciting too.
"My thoughts are with her amazing family who loved and supported her so much, and with Ruthie of course, her best friend and inseparable kitchen partner."
Fellow celebrity chef Jamie Oliver , who also trained at the restaurant, said Rose was 'one of life's very very special, natural, genius chefs' and a 'true pioneer of delicious simple cooking'.
He said: "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.
"The quality of food and chefs that have left the River Cafe over the last 20 years speaks for itself and is all credit to the partnership, love and values of Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers. Without question the world has lost one of the most important chefs of our times, she will be sorely missed."
On being awarded the MBE in January, Rose told the Chronicle about her and Ruth's vision and how they had fought back after a fire gutted the restaurant two years ago.
She said at the time: "We always believed we were going to make an amazing restaurant. It's a marvellous location with a lovely garden, and we're lucky enough to be able to grow some of our own herbs and vegetables. That's very unusual in London.
"Ruth and I have always said we're only going to do one restaurant, unlike most restaurateurs. We reinvent ourselves every two years.
"The fire was a disaster when it happened – it was dreadful. But we were determined that we weren't going to let a fire finish the River Cafe."