Rose Gray

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Rose Gray, MBE (28 January 1939 – 28 February 2010)[1] was a British chef and cookery writer, who set up (with Ruth Rogers) The River Café in 1987. She won a Michelin star for this in 1998. It was here that the talents of Jamie Oliver were first spotted. She had a profound influence on a generation of celebrity chefs including Oliver, Theo Randall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the latter stating that she had had more influence on him than any other person he had worked with. She wrote a series of cookery books and presented a twelve-part television programme for Channel Four, "The Italian Kitchen", in 1998.

Early life[edit]

Born Clemency Anne Rosemary Swann in Bedford, her father, Flight Lieutenant Clement Nelson Swann, 26, and a seven-month-old sister were killed in a domestic fire six months before her birth.[1] She was brought up in Scotland and Surrey. Her mother, (Elizabeth) Anne Lawrence,[2] daughter of Sir William Lawrence, 3rd Baronet, settled near Guildford, and Rose studied at the Guildford College of Art, where she gained a BA in Fine Art. Her career as a professional chef began at Nell's restaurant in New York, after which time she returned to London.

Last years[edit]

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. In 2004 she became a "Breast Cancer Ambassador" and was also co-founder of the Cooks in Schools charity. She was in remission from breast cancer for five years before it returned and metastasised to her brain[1] in late 2009 or early 2010. She died at home in Marylebone, London,[3] aged 71, on 28 February 2010.[2] She had been working on what was to be her last book (with Ruth Rogers), the River Café Classic Italian Cookery Book. Her other works (many of which were co-authored with Ruth Rogers) include the River Café Cookbook, the River Café Cookbook Green and River Café Pocket Books: Salads and Vegetables.

Personal life[edit]

In 1961[4] or 1962,[1] she married Michael Selby Gray. They had a son, Ossian and two daughters, Hester and Lucy;[2] the marriage ended in divorce. She had a son, Dante MacIlwaine Gray (born 1973), by her partner David Robin MacIlwaine, whom she was married to from 2004 until her death.[4] They lived part of their life in Tuscany,[2] where Rose first developed her interest in Italian food.


  1. ^ a b c d "Rose Gray". The Daily Telegraph. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d Levy, Paul (2 March 2010). "Rose Gray: Chef and restaurateur who co-founded the River Café". The Independent. Retrieved 6 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Laing, Aislinn (1 March 2010). "River Café founder Rose Gray: 'a pioneer of simple, delicious cooking'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Grimes, William (1 March 2010). "Rose Gray, a Master of Italian Fare, Is Dead at 71". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 

See also[edit]