Margot Henderson is a culinary force to be reckoned with – cookery writer, chef, caterer, British-Gastro pioneer. Having initially moved to Britain via savings she made at a Mexican cantina in New Zealand, her career could serve as a road map to all that was tasty and cool in 90s London, from The French House to192 and The Eagle. Married to fellow chef Fergus Henderson, she’s run the Rochelle Canteen in East London for 10 years, a quiet former school bicycle shed serving seasonal British food.
The most import thing for me is the food – it is all looking fresh and not boring.
And the kitchen has to be clear and not too cluttered. Kitchens constantly forget to empty their shelves of plastic containers – just get rid of them all!
Confidence is a struggle with women.
To be a good cook you’ve got to be cooking all the time because it’s about practice as all things are. When I had children I stopped cooking professionally but I was still going into the restaurant everyday. I think men build good teams but women feel like we have to do it all ourselves, otherwise we’re not really doing it. But it’s good to build a team, then you don’t have to do everything.
Sometimes putting food on the plate can be the hardest part of serving a dish.
If you try too hard it doesn’t work. I like it when it just goes down on the pass and boom! It’s off. It’s lovely when food on the plate looks beautiful and you’re happy with it – in some ways it’s more important that I like than if the person eating it likes it. If we both like it then of course, that’s really good! You know know when it’s working. And when it’s not, you just want to throw it out.
For me, women chefs were always inspiring.
When I was young, I looked up to women chefs. I once got a ticket, flew to Los Angeles and went to Mary Sue Milliken’s restaurant. When I met Stephanie Alexander in Australia with my husband Fergus I got completely tongue tied! You know when you follow somebody all your life and then meet them? She’s an amazing chef. That’s what you have in role models, isn’t it? You identify with some small thing and that’s why they’re so important. I’d always read their recipes. I wasn’t thinking ‘I want to be them’ – they just sort of help you along in your head.’ I’ve love lots of male chefs too, but women were just so inspiring.
The first thing you think of is the end result.
If you forget to do that then it can turn into something else. There are a lot of things that are already instinctively there – so you just know. I don’t need to think of the flavours, it’s more instinctive to me. I’m an instinctive cook, it’s quite earthly. I like to have a bit of starch, some salad and some greens. It’s like meat and two veg, but in a more glamorous way!