WITH RAYMOND BLANC
& COOKING ARTICLE
Blanc . . . interview with Raymond Blanc for new series
of The Restaurant
Following the huge success of Raymond Blanc's
The Restaurant last year the internationally renowned
chef returns in 2008 for a second series to find a winning
couple to go into business with him.
world-renowned chef and restaurateur Raymond Blanc returns
to BBC Two for a new series of The Restaurant, he shares
his culinary vision with Catharine Davey.
Born in Besancon, France, in 1949, Raymond is acknowledged
as one of the finest chefs in the world. His exquisite
cooking has received tributes from every national and
international guide to culinary excellence and his hotel
and restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, in Great
Milton, Oxford, is the only country-house hotel in the
UK to have received two Michelin stars for a total of
Raymond began his love affair with gastronomy at an
early age, learning a respect for the natural world
from his parents.
"I come from a working-class family and I am one
of five children," he says. "In order to feed
such a big family with little money, we quickly learnt
to respect food. And this is the first thing that I
pass on to any of the people who come to work with me
they must respect the food! I was lucky to live
in a very rural part of France and I had a wonderful
introduction to food and to connecting food with family
and with seasonality with the rhythm, the mood
and the cycle of the seasons. I learnt, from an early
age, about the importance of sitting down together and
sharing a meal."
As The Restaurant returns for a second series, nine
very different pairs of contestants compete to win the
coveted prize of going into partnership with Raymond.
Each week, Raymond shares his culinary knowledge with
the couples and puts them through a series of tough
challenges, designed to identify those with the flair,
enthusiasm and ability to succeed in the catering trade.
"This is reality TV in its truest sense,"
says Raymond. "There is something very real about
the show and that is the prize that follows it. The
prize is to come into a partnership with me. I aim to
dedicate a serious amount of my time and a lot of resources
from my company to help these young people really make
a successful restaurant."
Raymond, along with eagle-eyed industry experts Sarah
Willingham, one-time owner of The Bombay Bicycle Club,
and David Moore, manager of two Michelin-starred London
eatery Pied a Terre, knows exactly what he is looking
"We talk a lot about passion," he says. "But
passion is not enough you need willpower. Very
few people have the ability to make a dream real and,
to make it real, they have to face some very serious
challenges. Very quickly, we separate the dreamers from
the real, potential candidates."
Raymond refers back to Jane and Jeremy, the winners
of the coveted prize in the first series. Despite the
fact that the couple have now returned to Cornwall,
where they want to open their own restaurant, Raymond
talks about how the experience was a positive one for
"Jane and Jeremy were the deserved winners of
series one. They showed great strengths when they ran
their restaurant," he says. "They worked with
me for eight months and, for all of us, there was a
fantastic learning curve. And I believe that they walk
away from this much better equipped to run a successful
restaurant. I wish them great success in the future
and they know I will be on hand to offer my support
and advice should they want it."
Raymond knows better than anyone what it takes to achieve
success. At the age of 28, he opened his first restaurant,
Le Quat' Saisons, in Summertown, Oxford. After just
one year, the restaurant was named Egon Ronay Restaurant
of the Year and a host of other accolades, including
Michelin stars and Pestle & Mortar awards, followed.
"We are looking for a pair with complimentary
strengths a proper partnership," he says.
"We are also looking for the ability to drive a
team. And we are searching for important features, like
good business sense, the ability to communicate
that is hugely important and we want to see great
Without formal training, Raymond attributes his own
culinary brilliance to his early familiarity with the
basic rhythms of the natural world.
"At the age of seven, my father gave me a handful
of soil, not just to look at or to smell but to taste,"
says Raymond. "How right he was! In a handful of
soil there are numerous trace elements. And by looking
at the soil tasting it you can identify
a clay soil or an acidic soil. You can understand what
should grow in that soil and at what time of year. And,
of course, I became a hunter-gatherer. Like any other
boy in my village, I knew where to find mushrooms, fruit
. . . all this seasonal knowledge was passed on to me
very early in my life."
In his own working practices and through The Restaurant,
Raymond is keen to promote an awareness of a sustainable
"We have about 40 farmers who work with us at
Le Manoir," he says. "We have always tried
to source our produce from local farms. The garden
like the garden that I grew up in is so important.
The garden is the soul of food. I do not want produce
that has been flown in from New Zealand which
has been pumped up with fertilisers, pesticides and
sulphur dioxide! I want something that has been grown
locally. But I think things are starting to happen,
customers are now interested in the provenance of ingredients.
And people are starting to learn how to grow produce
again in allotments, in their gardens, even on
their windowsills. We are really reconnecting with the
deeper meaning of gastronomy. And it is a gastronomy
that is not elitist it is inclusive."
Raymond is a businessman and realist and he fully comprehends
that the financial realities of running a successful
restaurant are not always compatible with a wholly organic
approach to purchasing.
"The great news is that the restaurant business
is reconnecting with its soul with its core values,"
he says. "Farmers are re-discovering their own
regions. It's a really exciting moment because ecological
and environmental issues have become the most important
thing. But it all comes at a cost. Of course, a high
end restaurant can afford to buy organic produce, but
in a high-street restaurant that has to offer lower
pricing, buying organic can, of course, pose a great
problem. The key is to do a little bit but not so much
that you go out of business. You cannot teach anyone
anything if you are closed!"
Raymond hopes that the future of the food industry
is one which will continue to embrace environmental
"It is important to have a sense of place,"
he says. "As we increasingly are becoming citizens
of the world, I think it is important to rediscover
a sense of belonging. In the past, we have simply reduced
food down to a mere commodity. Now it is time to reconnect
with the true meaning of gastronomy because the current
approach is not sustainable."
And, for himself, this culinary master has two wishes
for the future to achieve a third Michelin star
for his beloved Le Manoir and to find the perfect winning
couple for this series of The Restaurant.
"It's a huge prize!" says Raymond. "Most
people work a lifetime to get their own restaurant.
So, to be given not only a restaurant but all the existing
infrastructure around it is of great value. And it's
a huge responsibility for me to choose the right pair.
Viewers will see some excellent competitors in this
series. But can they run a successful restaurant? A
good restaurant is meant to make things look easy but,
beneath the surface, is a great complexity like
the engine of a Rolls Royce. That is the great trick
the secret magic of success . . ."
RESTAURANT RETURNS TO BBC2
of content BBC TV
17 September 2008
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org