My Life In Food – Spring Head Chef Rose Ashby

Launched by former Petersham Nurseries head chef Skye Gyngell in 2014, Spring has gone on to win many accolades for both its food and approach to sustainability. Today the kitchen is headed up by Skye’s protégé, 29-year-old Rose Ashby, who began as a chef de partie at the restaurant three years ago. Here, the Devon-raised chef shares all her foodie favourites from London to San Francisco and South Africa…

What’s your earliest memory of eating out?  

I spent some of my childhood in South Africa. We always used to go to a restaurant on the beach in Fishhoek and have a huge seafood platter for Christmas lunch and then go surfing afterwards. It was heavenly.  

What was the first dish you learned to cook? 

I think my sister taught me how she liked her cheese on toast when I was about nine, which I thought was a great bonding experience. In hindsight she just wanted me to make her cheese on toast for the rest of her life. 

Which restaurant do you think should everyone visit in their lifetime? 

Chez Panisse in San Francisco for farm-to-table cooking at its finest. It’s an institution everyone should visit given the chance. 

Any recent openings you’d recommend? 

Sabor, where head chef Nieves Barragan has just won a Michelin star. I have been a few times and always eat well there. My favourite dish (of many) is braised squid with dill: the squid was beautifully tender and dill is one of my favourite herbs, so it’s always a winner. 

Where would you head for ‘date night’? 

I would have to say Spring, it’s so romantic. 

What’s your favourite pub? 

The Walmer Castle in Notting Hill, the perfect pub for a relaxed Sunday catch-up with friends. 

And London bar? 

I love the bar at Noble Rot for a glass of pinot noir and a plate of finnocchiona salami.  

What’s your speedy Sunday night supper? 

A takeaway from Maroush, laden with baba ganoush and flat bread. 

For healthy food in a hurry? 

My favourite in-a-rush food stop would have to be Leon. I find it’s the healthiest option on the hoof. I love the chicken and chorizo salad.  

What do you eat after a long, late shift in the kitchen? 

I can eat an entire bag of satsumas in one sitting. 

Whose cookbook do you find inspirational? 

Babel by Maranda Engelbrecht, who owns Babylonstoren farm and restaurant in South Africa. 

Who else inspired your journey to become a chef? 

My mum. She had me cooking – somewhat reluctantly – as a child, but it slowly grew into something I love. I had a nudge towards Leiths School Of Food & Wine from my dad. Skye Gyngell is incredibly influential in my life; she runs Spring where I am the head chef. 

Chez Panisse
Chez Panisse

Which other restaurants are supporting sustainability? 

Douglas McMasters’ Silo in Brighton and The Conduit Club, a new members club on Conduit Street which has put sustainability at the heart of its design, food and member selection process. Merlin Johnson, who consulted for the club, has always been passionate about sourcing produce ethically and has ensured the restaurant at the club follows suit by supporting small farms and day boats for fish. 

Where’s your favourite place to buy ingredients?  

Lemons and Limes in Turnham Green is my favourite shop. Whenever I am cooking for anyone at home I always go to the shop and take my inspiration from the produce there. The tomatoes there are always sweet and crisp and they always have the herbs I am looking for, which can be a challenge in supermarkets.  

Who would be your ideal dinner party guest?  

David Attenborough, because he is basically god.


Do you cater for private events and what do you serve? 

I often cater for my sister Sophie who is an interior designer, usually in one of her beautiful Studio Ashby-designed projects around London. Canapés are always on the cards – halibut crudo with preserved lemon and chilli served on a tulip petal is a favourite. 

What’s your drink of choice? 

A pinot noir is my favourite easy drinking wine but if we’re talking cocktails then it has to be a negroni, every time! My favourite negroni would be from Spring. Call me biased but our head barman Matteo replaces the gin for our house-made limoncello. It is seriously good.

The Conduit Club
The Conduit Club
Fat Duck
Fat Duck
Spring Restaurant
Spring Restaurant

What’s your death row dinner? 

Hoisin duck pancakes with a limitless supply of plum sauce, followed by roast chicken with all the trimmings and endless gravy. Then it would have to be sticky toffee pudding with ice-cream and a side of custard. 

And your food hell?  

Unidentified bits of meat in a stew – yuck. 

Lastly, what’s the most decadent meal you've ever had? 

Probably the tasting menu I had at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck when it was number one in the world.

Spring, Somerset House, Lancaster Place, Covent Garden, WC2R 1LA 


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