Ruth Rogers’ new podcast, in which she interviews stellar guests at her iconic London restaurant, makes for utterly compelling listening.
Podcasts are arguably the greatest marketing tools of our time. There are more available these days than anyone can possibly have time for — and not all of them are worth your while.
This one is. For two reasons.
First, the podcast, named after the restaurant’s most coveted table, has attracted the world’s most covetable guests. The calibre is staggering. The current roster of 47 includes Michael Caine, Paul McCartney, Al Gore, David Beckham, Glenn Close, Tracey Ullman, Salman Rushdie, Victoria Beckham, Ralph Fiennes, Lily Allen, Jake Gyllenhaal and, reportedly, everybody’s favourite foodie, Stanley Tucci.
The second reason you should tune in to Table 4 is Ruth – known to most as Ruthie – Rogers’ wonderfully natural interview style. Presumably she has honed it over 25 years of hovering charmingly at the tables of her guests. Her loving, empathetic slightly anglicised East Coast drawl is alluring.
Through her podcast, Rogers says she wants to get to the heart of her guests’ relationship with food. ‘Food in your lives, food in your childhood, food that you cook for your children, food that is sustainable, food that is political.’
She does this in spades. Her gentle questioning draws out gripping insights from each of them. In every half-hour episode, a guest is first invited to read aloud a River Café recipe of their choice and then their childhood memories, likes, dislikes and habits come gushing forth. Nobody says anything tedious.
Victoria Beckham is utterly loveable as she recalls her mother using their oven as a filing cabinet and describes with candour just how controlled she is when it comes to what she eats.
She admits that: ‘Gordon Ramsay has said he’s never known anybody be as disciplined about the way that they eat.’ And she means it self-deprecatingly. Her comfort food is wholegrain toast with salt on it. Fascinating.
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is refreshing and open when he confesses that: ‘Food and meals were the only thing that really worked in my family.’ He and Ruthie seem to have a deep and special relationship, about which it is heartwarming to hear.
When asked about his comfort food, Michael Caine – whose interview is yet to air – is delightful. He answers: ‘Years ago it was sausage and mash. Now it’s caviar.’
In the Paul McCartney episode, we learn about the time he fell in love with fine wine in London (having thought the plonk he first tasted with John Lennon in Paris was revolting and tasted like vinegar).
Vegetarianism is, predictably, one of his great themes; he chooses roast aubergine as his recipe. But he makes it perfectly interesting. Who doesn’t want to hear that he and Linda replaced their turkey at Christmas with macaroni cheese?
With the restaurant, cookbooks, a swanky online shop and this latest podcast offering, The River Café brand is burgeoning. Rumour has it Rogers wouldn’t rule out a second site if the right one came up. As The Times says: “Podcasting is only one part of its new lease of life as an international luxury marque.” Our view is: if the brand is this good, it is welcome to expand as much as it pleases.
Four More Fab Foodie Podcasts
Out To Lunch With Jay Rayner
In this popular series, the top food critic takes the great and the good (his guests read rather like the booking sheet at the River Café must) to restaurants of his choice. Listen in here.
Tea With Twiggy
Here, the model sits down with a chum or two for an intimate weekly chinwag. Listen in here.
Table Manners With Jessie Ware
This relaxed and chatty podcast comes to us from the kitchen table of the singer-songwriter Jessie Ware, who is accompanied by a pop-culture guest and her chef mother, Lennie. Listen in here.
Life On A Plate
Now it its fourth season, this podcast from Waitrose celebrates all there is to love about food and wine with guests like Chris Packham, Yotam Ottolenghi and Diana Henry. Listen in here.
By Becky Ladenburg
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