“As a child, I gained the deepest understanding of food, without even knowing it.”
Raymond Blanc and a passion for food are synonymous. We feel privileged to work with him and have all seen first-hand how this passion radiates to every part of our business – from sourcing the best ingredients, to hiring the best chefs and choosing the most beautiful dining venues.
This Spring has seen the launch of a new menu brimming over with delights created in the kitchens at Brasserie Blanc – a collaboration between Raymond and our chef team led by Clive Fretwell. French classics done brilliantly are at the heart of the BB menu but another level has been added with dishes inspired by Raymond’s travels – the tastes and textures he enjoys so much as he visits other countries have made their way subtly onto this exciting new menu.
Our favourite Frenchman is bursting with an encyclopaedic knowledge & a love of real food with roots in a childhood that revolved around his Maman, and her kitchen table. Maman Blanc’s table was, and still is by all accounts, not a thing to be trifled with. Meals there dictated the rhythm of the family days, and lives. And it is here that he learned the importance of being true to ingredients, everything in its season.
There is great beauty in honest food, cooked with heart, using kitchen wisdom passed down through the generations. And as Maman Blanc passed her knowledge and love of food to Raymond, so he passes it on to us, his team, to share with our brasserie families, and you, our guests.
One of the world’s most respected chefs, Raymond Blanc is totally self-taught.
His story begins in Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Jura mountains, where Raymond was born. He was inspired by the local terroir, and most of all by his mother, the formidable Maman Blanc who used fresh, local and seasonal produce to create meals for the family; wholesome meals full of goodness and love.
In the summer of 1972, Raymond arrived in England to work as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant in Oxfordshire. One day, when the chef was ill, Raymond took over the kitchen. At that very moment, his career was born.
In 1977, Raymond opened his first restaurant, Les Quat’Saisons in Summertown, Oxford. It was an overnight success, winning Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year, and two prestigious Michelin stars within a couple of years.
It was in 1984, however, that Raymond fulfilled a personal vision, creating a hotel and restaurant in harmony when he opened Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Le Manoir combines magnificent surroundings with gastronomic excellence. It is the only UK country house hotel to have retained two Michelin stars for the past 30 years. Le Manoir’s eleven stunning gardens, including the vast kitchen gardens, are the envy of botanists worldwide. “His house is as beautiful as a tale of Lewis Carroll,” observed the acclaimed French food writer Gilles Pudlowski.
Raymond has always felt compelled to share his culinary knowledge and, in 1991, he established The Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Based within Le Manoir’s kitchens, the school welcomes enthusiastic amateurs and professional cooks, as well as children, providing the opportunity for home cooks to develop their skills in a relaxed and friendly environment.
In 1996, Raymond opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford. More brasseries followed. In 2006 the group was re-launched as Brasserie Blanc and there are now some 20 restaurants across England. The brasseries offer French classics and modern dishes, all made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Each of the brasseries is a place to relax, and enjoy ‘real French food, close to home’ and at affordable prices.
In 2008, Raymond was awarded an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen, in recognition of his services in promoting culinary excellence and for raising awareness about the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life. In 2013 he was awarded the insignia of Chevalier in the Ordre national de Légion d’Honneur, the highest French decoration.
Never one to guard his secrets and passion, Raymond has championed and nurtured some of the country’s most respected chefs personally in his kitchens, including such names as Marco Pierre White, Michael Caines, Bruno Loubet, Eric Chavot and Ollie Dabbous. Some 26 of his protégées have gone on to win Michelin stars for themselves. It is no wonder that in 2005 he was voted AA’s Chefs’ Chef of the Year.
Raymond is a best-selling author, and his BBC2 television series have included The Very Hungry Frenchman, Kitchen Secrets and How to Cook Well. He is currently filming a new television series with the BBC and Kew Gardens. Entitled Kew on a Plate, it is due to be broadcast in 2015. He is also writing two books.
Raymond is the father of two sons, Olivier and Sebastien.