NEW VIDEO: 'No fine dining, I’ve done fine dining – I just want people to be able to come in and out and take their food'

The Staff Canteen

Celebrity chef Romy Gill MBE, talks to The Staff Canteen about her food, why seasonality is so important to her and why she keeps coming back to do residencies at Carousel in London.

Not just a chef, Romy has written several cookbooks – her latest one is due out next year – and writes for publications such as the New York Times. You may also know her from Ready, Steady, Cook.

Being a food and travel writer, she says is really exciting as a chef, it allows her to visit different countries including her native India which she explains is so big she is still learning about the different cuisines.

“As a chef, you never stop learning,” said Romy. “Food for me is a connecter and it always has been.”

Before she made her name, Romy had a restaurant in Thornbury called Romy’s Kitchen, where you’d find her cooking 12 to 14 hours a day. It was during the early days of the restaurant, she met Ed Templeton, Director at Carousel restaurant in London, and he offered her the opportunity to do a residency. Carousel is built on guest chefs, it offers them the opportunity to cook in London, but it also gives guests access to chefs from around the world.

This month Romy did her seventh residency, she says the first time she did it, it was ‘such an eye opening experience’.

“People and critics who had never tasted my food were able to come and experience it,” she said. “I give a lot of credit to Faye Maschler, she came and ate my food and wrote a review about it for The Evening Standard and the rest is history!

“People started coming, they knew about my restaurant and through that came so many other opportunities. If I had stayed in Thornbury, it would have taken longer for people to get to know me but I think the hard work would have paid off eventually.”

She added: “It took years to get the restaurant up and running. Carousel was a turning point for me and that’s why I come back every year. Every time I say ‘this is my last year’, but I end up coming again.”

She laughed: “I’m too old for it!”

Although there are chefs on hand to help at Carousel, Romy says because it’s ‘your food’ which is showcased, ‘you want it to be right’ so she is completely hands on. Her food, she admits, is very different. She didn’t go to a culinary school, she learnt everything from other chefs and is authentic which is why she is such a big advocate of Carousel as a concept.

She explained: “It is the only restaurant which has helped and allowed other restaurants from all over the world to come and be successful. It’s brilliant. “The chefs who work here learn so much about different cuisines, I would love to be in this kitchen.”

Romy says that at each of her residencies she always showcases a new dish but she will always go back to her favourites. This time guests enjoyed a lamb dish from her new book, Tandoori Quail  and her signature dish, Samosa Chaat.

Samosa Chaat by Romy Gill

“I’ll never change it,” explained Romy. “It’s always there. It’s a dish, when you arrive, the first thing you need is a street food you will always remember!”

Using seasonal ingredients is very important to Romy and so is showcasing underused ingredients from wild boar to goat.

“It’s really important. I grew up in India where seasonal and local was very important – I always go back to my roots. Quail in India, you can cook over coal if you don’t have a Tandoori. It’s such a delicious bird and you have to eat it with your fingers, you can’t use a knife and fork!”

She added: “It has to be tender and a little pink on the inside.”

Tandoori Quail by Romy Gill

It’s obvious that Romy enjoys being in the kitchen but when asked if she would have another restaurant, she explains that it’s not something she wants anymore.

“As a freelance chef I can go anywhere in the world and cook. I don’t have the overheads or the problem of staffing, but I do miss the buzz of having my own place.”

She added: “I would love a tiny little place which just served four things – rice, dhal, paneer and chicken.

“No fine dining, I’ve done fine dining – I just want people to be able to come in and out and take their food…. I think I will do it!”

Main Photo Credit: Matt Inwood

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2023

NEW VIDEO: 'No fine dining, I’ve done fine dining – I just want people to be able to come in and out and take their food'