Flash-grilled: Rose Ashby

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Rose Ashby head chef of Spring restaurant at Somerset House

Related tags: Chef

The head chef of Spring at Somerset House on her love of Christmas dinner, childhood aspirations of being a PE teacher, and struggling to impress her six-year-old niece with pasta.

What was your first industry job?
The Dartmouth Apprentice in Devon - a great first kitchen for training and education.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a PE teacher, and my last birthday party was actually a basketball tournament with my best mates in a sports hall.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Nieves Barragan. An incredible chef creating innovative dishes: Sabor is one of my favourite restaurants in London. 

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Bad hygiene. Do not double dip your spoon on my watch - there will be hell to pay. 

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
A side of sweet potato was sent back because they could taste chocolate in it. They then respectfully declined to believe me when I assured them that no chocolate was involved.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
I love to use a balance of fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients in combinations that showcase the quality of the produce, with a Mediterranean twist.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
After learning a new phrase, my six-year-old niece told me that the tomato pasta I had cooked for her was ‘absolutely revolting’.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A pasta machine. Freshly rolled pasta dishes take some beating. No pasta, no party. 

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
It’s lucky, because I actually have this meal every year on Christmas day. Roast chicken, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes (excellent ones), all swimming in gravy and unlimited pigs-in-blankets. If I have room for desert, it will usually involve custard, with a side of extra custard. 

À la carte or tasting menu?
After sitting through a few too many tasting menus in my time, I much prefer à la carte these days. Hours and hours spent at a table with lengthy explanations can take its toll.

Favourite fast food joint?
Definitely my local kebab shop in Turnham Green called Lara. Their tabbouleh and shish kebabs are the best in the West.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Like most chefs I would definitely ban phones at the table. Those photo moments are letting the food get cold and spoil - eat it already!

What’s your earliest food memory?
My mother’s butternut squash soup - it’s the best. 

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram hands down. I love scrolling unlimited food snaps for inspiration. 

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
During a summer trip to Rome, I got through so many slices of pizza, bowls of pasta, and scoops of ice cream that I thought they may need to take me out on a stretcher - it was nearly game over!

Tipple of choice?
Am an absolute sucker for a glass of Cos - a Sicilian pinot noir.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Always be humble. Assume that there may be others in the kitchen that know more than you do. It’s ok not to know everything, so don’t pretend you do. Ask questions, remember the answers. Work quickly, and clean up your mess.

Related topics: Chef, People, Restaurant

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