Totally self-taught, world renowned chef Raymond Blanc is no stranger to long days and hard work. Citing these as just some of the secrets to his success; the celebrated chef of Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons has accomplished so much in his career. From his award winning restaurants, to television shows, and cookery schools, he has worked his way up from a kitchen hand to one of the greatest chefs of our time. He talks about his success and what he thinks it takes to become an expert below…
What first inspired you to begin your career as a chef and what keeps you there today?
I was born in a beautiful Besançon in the Franche-Comté region, just between Burgundy and the Jura mountains – a truly amazing place where I learned so much. I was really inspired by my mother, Maman Blanc. She taught me everything. How to garden; planting, nurturing the vegetables and fruit, when to pick them, how to use them… we used fresh, local and seasonal produce to create meals for the family; wholesome meals full of goodness. I always remember these times and today I visit my Maman as often as I can and still we garden, we cook and I never stop learning from her.
What do you think is the secret to becoming an expert in your chosen field?
For me, you have to be willing to learn from all those around you and to be dedicated. The hours are hard, long long days and evenings, but being patient, willing to learn and help those around you. I am so lucky that I have a fantastic team at Belmond Le Manoir and at Brasserie Blanc – we help each other and that is so important.
What is your favourite meal of the day and subsequent dish? Oooh I like every meal! For me, in between meetings and being in the kitchen, simple fresh bread and cheese is perfect for me. I am lucky that I can have the freshest ingredients from our kitchen garden at Belmond Le Manoir – and bread baked daily, so I’m a little spoiled! My favourite cheese is Comte Cheese – of course from my region of France and I also enjoy a glass of red wine every so often!
What has been the highlight of your career to date and why?
I have many highlights… but two things that stand out for me. In 2008, I was awarded an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen. How amazing. This was in recognition for raising awareness about the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life – something as I said before, I learned from a very early age.
More recently, in 2013, I was awarded the insignia of Chevalier in the Ordre National de La Légion d’Honneur – a huge honour for me.
What is the best advice any one has ever given you?
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is not to follow fashion — whether it’s food or design, whatever. Follow fashion and sooner or later you will trip up. Everything I do, I do for my guests.
What is the secret to running a successful restaurant?
I think that you must work closely with your team and ensure that every day, you are striving to exceed expectations in all you do. Everything I do, I do for my guests – and this is something my team shares.
What are the three most important qualities a good chef should possess?
Patience, dedication and passion.
If you weren’t a professional chef and restaurateur what would you be and why?
I would be a gardener, without doubt. I love being in the garden and work closely with my head gardener at Le Manoir, Anne Marie, she has worked with me for 30 years so we have a great friendship and partnership.
How would you spend your perfect day off? If I wasn’t in the garden, I would go fishing! Take a book and enjoy time to relax and fish.