Carolyn Robb – Interview
The Royal Touch
Carolyn Robb, co-founder of The Royal Touch, was formerly Executive Chef to TRH Prince Charles and Princess Diana for eleven years and also served other members of the Royal Family.
“You excelled yourself this evening for dinner, the first course was a masterpiece, Well Done!” Charles
“…Being lucky enough to have some of your heavenly food on these expeditions makes a huge difference…” –From Charles”
These are just some of the compliments from the royal family during a thirteen-year stay as a chef in the royal household, first with the Duke & Duchess of Gloucester and then from 1989 till 2002, as a chef to the Prince & Princess of Wales and that was just the beginning for Carolyn Robb. Carolyn Robb has, since then, become a prestigious name in the culinary industry.
Her stint in Dubai ensured considerable exposure to the Middle Eastern flavors and her expertise were drawn upon by some major actors in the hospitality business to source and develop products, to consult and train chefs for seven-star establishments and to review the capability and skill of restaurant chefs. Transitioning into personal business upon her return to the UK, Carolyn established ‘Calla-Bash’, a catering and event management company, catering to high profile clients, simultaneously offering her knowledge and expertise to small organic food companies, hotel groups and restaurants. In the course of her career, she has established her position on the culinary map internationally. Today, Carolyn Robb manages her business and lives with her daughter, Lucy, in a remarkable 900-year-old town called Wallingford, on the river Thames. She has managed, directed and advised in a number of roles and acted as a judge in some of the most prestigious British Academy of Culinary Arts competitions while staying true to her convictions on organic food and home-grown produce.
I recently got a chance to interview Carolyn Robb and her about her experiences as a chef, her catering and event management business ‘Calla-Bash’ and her inspirations.
Tell us about yourself? How your love for food began and where do you see yourself today as a chef?
I loved cooking from a very young age when I was at my mother’s side in the kitchen. She was an incredible cook and I learned a lot from her. I am so fortunate to have had such an exciting career; beginning as a chef in the royal household when I was 21 and subsequently having worked in Dubai. My experience is varied – both in and out of the kitchen. Today I am first and foremost a mother to my 2 young daughters and whilst cooking is still my great passion; as I demonstrate in my cookbook, I am also working hard on establishing my culinary brand, The Royal Touch.
How challenging is it to cook for the royalty, especially since you worked there for more than a decade?
It certainly had its challenges but these were far outweighed by the enormous privilege of working for such an incredible family. I believe that in any chef’s position it is important to love what you do as working in kitchens is a high-pressure job and it is very hard work.
It seems that you have continuously been on a culinary venture, hitchhiking through continents teaching and learning about food cultures, what have your experiences taught you?
First and foremost, the more you learn about food and understand about different food cultures the more you want to know! Learning about food is a wonderful way to begin to appreciate and understand different cultures.
Do you have a sweet tooth? And what do you love to cook for family and friends?
I do have quite a sweet tooth but mostly for other people’s creations – I just love tasting the cakes, cookies, desserts etc that others have made! The food I cook for my family includes a lot of home baked goodies, but my food is simple and runs with whatever fresh produce is in a season.
As a chef what has been the most interesting experience you’ve ever had?
It is impossible to pinpoint one single experience, but I was very fortunate to have the chance to work with some of the greatest Michelin chefs, including Roger Verge, Raymond Blanc, Guiltiero Marchesi and Albert and Michel (Jr) Roux.
How was it working in Dubai and how do you find the food scene in Dubai?
I loved it! I worked in some fantastic locations in Dubai – Al Maha Desert Resort stands out in my mind. My time as food editor for Time Out magazine was also a highlight as having the opportunity to review so many of Dubai’s amazing restaurants was fantastic.
What is your favorite type of cuisine?
I think it has to be Italian, although modern British comes a very close second.
What is cooking for you…?
The process of bringing together carefully chosen ingredients to create something simple but memorable that will bring a smile to the faces of those you are feeding….
What inspires you to cook?
Fresh seasonal ingredients – for example, a basket of freshly picked asparagus or summer berries – they make me want to get into the kitchen and create something special!
What are your future plans?
I am working hard on developing my brand, ‘The Royal Touch’ which is taking me down many interesting avenues; a cafe in Hong Kong, a range of cookware in South Korea, some great partnerships with travel companies and a second book is never far from my thoughts.