The chef Margot Henderson was 10 when she catered her first party, a birthday celebration for her younger brother Robin, then 5, in their hometown, Wellington, New Zealand. “Our mother was a complete health nut who would feed us apple cider vinegar and honey,” recalls Henderson. “I wasn’t going to let my brother suffer like I had! I made a whole spread of oranges and jellies and cooked snails from the garden with garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs.”
This innate talent for hospitality would become the foundation of Henderson’s four-decade career in restaurants, which started when she moved to England in 1984, soon working in some of London’s most acclaimed kitchens. In the early ’90s, she met her future husband, the chef Fergus Henderson, now 60, when he served her a dish of pigeon and peas at a pop-up restaurant where he was cooking. “It was perfect.” says Henderson, 59. “I fell for his food and for him. It also helped me identify how I wanted to cook, which is slowly and gently.” The couple, who have been married for over 30 years and have three children together, share a bold, elegant approach to cooking that emphasizes the quality of their ingredients, and their respective empires — Fergus runs the three meat-focused St. Johns restaurants in London; Henderson runs the restaurant Rochelle Canteen, also in London, as well as the catering company Arnold & Henderson with her business partner, Melanie Arnold — have helped define contemporary English cuisine.