Who are you and what do you do?
I am a wife to my darling Fergus Henderson, mother to three lovely young adults, a food lover and have made restaurants my life. I love to cook and eat and gather people together. My business partner Melanie and I have had restaurants for 24 years, including Rochelle Canteen, the recently opened Rochelle ICA, and our catering business Arnold and Henderson.
Tell us about your restaurant
Rochelle Canteen is a hidden gem… well, not so hidden anymore! It’s nestled in an old Victorian playground in Arnold Circus, and in the summer it’s a joy to sit under the grape vines and eat delicious food. The food is fantastic and has its feet firmly planted in Britain, but is also influenced by all of Europe and even further afield. We let our ingredients speak for themselves and like to gather and source our produce as close to home as we can.
What’s your earliest food memory?
My mother baking brown bread; beautiful dark brown bricks, crunchy on the outside moist and wet on the inside. It was best just out of the tin smothered in butter and honey. The other, I think, was Dad cooking field mushrooms in lots of butter – I remember thinking if something smells that good, it must taste good as well and there started my love of mushrooms.
Tell us about the best meal you ever had?
The first dish Fergus cooked for me was spaghetti, cabbage and truffle oil with lots of fresh grated parmesan; so simple, so perfect and so romantic.
What’s your favourite dish?
Gosh that’s hard… I suppose white truffle risotto. Or, after getting back from Verona recently, Bolito Misto – what a glorious, proud and beautiful dish, soothing and loving!
What’s the best thing about the London food scene?
It’s got it all going on and more! The food scene showcases this great city and all the wondrous talented people cooking and running it in so many varied and exciting restaurants. And the creativity shows no sign of slowing down.
And the worst thing?
Not enough staff to go around all these great restaurants. We need more kitchen porters, more chefs and more waiters.
What’s your favourite food-related anecdote?
When I was a young girl at Belmont primary school, in Wellington, New Zealand, we were studying France and the teacher asked us to bring in snails from the garden. We brought them in, drowned them and then cooked them up with garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. I was hooked on them and would cook them for my mother’s dinner parties. It was quite advanced for the suburbs of New Zealand.