I’m a sucker for authenticity. It sounds a bit ‘white witchy-poo hippy’, but I tend to get ‘hunches’. I reckon I can tell if the wool around my eyes is being tugged too tightly. Of course I may be dressing up a tendency to be judgemental as wisdom, and intuition, but I do get ‘feelings’, ‘hunches’.
I liked Rosalind Rathouse the minute I met her. Firm, slightly bossy, but compassionate and warm. A magical brew in my opinion. She runs the Cookery School, a business she set up 10 years ago just off Oxford Street, Marylebone. It’s one of the best ‘every-day skills’ cooking schools I’ve been to; no skimping on quality ingredients, professionally planned and prepped, excellent instruction, fun. She’s passionate about sustainability and skills and the sense of wellbeing you can get from eating simple food, prepared well. And I like that.
She has a team of enthusiastic and energetic cooks supporting her. They love her, she adores them. Her leadership is clear, but there’s a strong sense of collective accountability too. She should probably add MBA classes to her exhaustive cookery class schedule, as she seems to embody the sort of management practices young turks spend a lot of money hoping to absorb by osmosis.
At the end of 3.5 hours I still like her. A lot. And even though I have my hastily formed, but incontestable ‘view’ of Rosalind Rathouse, it’s not quite enough. Much like my approach to the evening’s portion of tiramisu, I feel a little greedy and want a smidge more. Wise and experienced and clearly very clever, I want to know how she sees the foodie scene, who she thinks the ‘greats’ are, and what she’d miss if it wasn’t around. I asked her a few curlies and this is what she said.
1. What do you think is the most important role food plays in today’s society?
It raises awareness on food issues : on the one hand we are aware of food and water scarcity for so many in the world and the necessity of sustainability if we are to maintain decent world food stocks for future generations. Whilst on the other hand there is an extreme of growing interest, fanned by the media of super indulgent and, all too often wasteful, food. I wish that food could play a more important social role in pulling families together with communal eating and cooking. At present that is pie in the sky until the government changes it’s educational policy and introduces all children from primary through to secondary school to cooking and related topics.
2. What’s your best cooking tip or trick?
Difficult to choose. For a béchamel that never fails, mix oil with flour together then add cold milk along with seasonings and then cook, stirring all the time. The result is the silkiest and smoothest of béchamels. Most times this sauce is used with other flavours (parsley or cheese). If a richer sauce is required, simply drop some butter or cream into the sauce and the desired richness can be achieved.
3. What do you think the next big ‘foodie trend’ will be?
I would like to think that it is a push on being more sustainable – eating more vegetable products than first class proteins. Perhaps it might be a focus on African food as Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East, Asia and North and South America are in vogue or have recently been. African cuisine is different but if it became trendy, it would mean that we would have a diet based on far more starchy root veg and meat or fish would be an added flavouring. Without meaning to be, our diet would be more sustainable like theirs is through sheer necessity. Just coincidentally the Cookery School does an event each year for Desmond Tutu’s African Leadership Institute where the leaders cook up an African feast!
4. Who would you love to have cook for you?
Fergus and Margot Henderson or Tom Pemberton of Hereford Road. All of them cook real food that is wonderfully delicious and treated as food ought to be: with respect for the ingredients.
5. Desert island dish?
It would need to be the food that could be gleaned from the tropical island and from surrounding sea. Grilled lobster served with tropical fruits washed down by coconut juice would do me fine!
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*All photos on this page by Chris Osburn