Rose Gray

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Clemency Anne Rosemary Gray MBE (née Swann; 28 January 1939 – 28 February 2010[1]) was a British chef and cookery writer. With Ruth Rogers, she set up The River Café in 1987, which won a Michelin star 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.[2]

Early life[edit]

She was born in Bedford. Six months before her birth, her father, Flight Lieutenant Clement Nelson Swann, age 26, and a seven-month-old sister were killed in a domestic fire.[1] She was brought up in Scotland and Surrey. Her mother, (Elizabeth) Anne Lawrence,[3] daughter of Sir William Lawrence, 3rd Baronet, settled near Guildford, Surrey, 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 City, 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,[4] aged 71, on 28 February 2010.[3] 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[5] or 1962,[1] she married Michael Selby Gray. They had a son, Ossian and two daughters, Hester and Lucy;[3] 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.[5] They lived part of their life in Tuscany,[3] 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. ^ "The Italian Kitchen". Channel 4. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Laing, Aislinn (1 March 2010). "River Café founder Rose Gray: 'a pioneer of simple, delicious cooking'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  5. ^ 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]