Rose Gray, the co-founder of London’s pioneering River Cafe and co-author of the equally influential River Cafe Cookbook, died of cancer yesterday at the age of 71, the Guardian reports. The River Cafe, which Gray opened with Ruth Rogers in 1987, transformed Italian cooking in England — prior to the restaurant’s existence, British interpretations of Italian cuisine were confined largely to, as Gray once said, “spaghetti Bolognese and tiramisu.” Gray’s emphasis on the kind of fresh, simple food she’d eaten while living in Italy earlier that decade was revolutionary.
The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 1998, and was the training ground for such chefs as Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and April Bloomfield. The first River Cafe Cookbook, which was published in 1995, was likewise groundbreaking — there was no photo of food on the cover, the text was minimal, and the food photographed in the book had just come out of the kitchen. Gray was working on her latest cookbook, the River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook, when she was diagnosed with brain tumors last year.