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Eat, Sleep, Drink, Eat

OX Meets Rosemary Shrager 

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Rosemary

I love being able to interview people who I have enjoyed watching on TV. Having the opportunity to get to know one of the UK’s best loved celebrity chefs has been a great experience. Rosemary Shrager is a warm, vibrant personality who loves inspiring people to cook whether on her many TV programmes, via her online ‘cookalongs’ and masterclasses on Zoom, or in real time at festivals.

Rosemary proved her versatility as a cook back in November 2012 when she took part in I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! Although Rosemary joined the show as a late entrant, she finished in sixth place and endured some pretty horrendous tasks during her time in the Australian jungle. However, her career covers a lot more than TV reality shows as I found out.

Educated at the Northwich School of Art and Design and the Heatherly School of Fine Art, Rosemary intended to specialise in interior design. However, thanks to her mother being an inspirational cook, Rosemary loved to spend time in the kitchen creating her own dishes. This, combined with her love of interior design, led Rosemary to become a kitchen designer. However, her real passion was food and cooking. She started her culinary career by preparing Company Directors’ lunches in London, all the time learning more about catering. Following her marriage to Michael Shrager and the birth of her two children, Rosemary joined forces with a friend to set up a catering company.

When she moved with her family to Cornwall, Rosemary went to work with Jean Christophe-Novelli. She wanted to learn more about working in the professional world of cooking great food. When the family returned to London, she took the bold step of contacting Michelin-starred chef Pierre Koffman who at the time ran the famous La Tante Claire restaurant in Chelsea. He agreed to take her on and she spent time in all sections of the restaurant.

Having got further training under her chef’s apron, Rosemary went on to work at some amazing places including the family home of the Mountbatten family, followed by Amhuinnsuidhe Castle on the Isle of Harris. Here, she successfully set up her first cookery school. Whilst working in Scotland, Channel 5 ‘discovered’ her, creating Castle Cook. Her career both in the kitchen and on TV took her to Yorkshire. Viewers were introduced to the strict but kind chef when, together with Lucy Briers and Gill Harboard, she transformed a group of ‘Ladettes’ into ‘Ladies’. Since those days Rosemary has appeared in numerous TV programmes, teaching people how to cook and travelling to exotic parts of the world.

What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family and why?

When I am cooking for people I hold dear, my favourite dish to serve is an oxtail stew with horseradish dumplings. It is the most delicious warming winter supper to put on the table with some lovely root vegetables. For the summer, I enjoy making a fish cataplana with garlic bread. This reminds me of the Mediterranean and the beautiful sunshine and time spent with good friends.

And what do you enjoy eating when others are cooking?

I love fish pie or a selection of tapas. I call this ‘comfort’ food. I also love bread and butter pudding for the same reason.

On leaving the I’m A Celebrity camp, what did you most look forward to eating?

That’s really interesting…garlic king prawns and chips. Or a big fry up.

Which country’s cuisine has most inspired you?

I was most inspired by the food in India. Whether I went to eat with the Maharaja, or to a humble home, the food was equally as good. I never had anything that was repeated on a menu and this really helped me appreciate that Indian food is all about the layering. For this reason, I love cooking and eating anything inspired by my travels around India.

What would you like people to take away from watching one of your demonstrations?

What I love to do is to teach people new techniques. I feel real satisfaction when people say to me ‘Wow, I didn’t realise how easy and fun cooking can be’.

Finally, can you tell me a little about your novels.

Writing my two novels, The Proof in the Pudding and my latest The Last Supper, combines my two most favourite things. It was during lockdown that my agent suggested that I gave writing a go. And hey-ho, I am now a novelist and that is something I never even dreamed of.

If you would like to see Rosemary Shrager cooking live she will be appearing at two food festivals which are easily accessible from Oxfordshire.

On 23 June 2023, she has two appearances at the Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival in Montpellier Gardens cheltenhamfooddrinkfestival.co.uk and will also be at the new Chippenham Food & Drink Festival held at Monkton Park on 8 July chippenhamfooddrinkfestival.co.uk.

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