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THE RESTAURANT RETURNS TO BBC2 FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

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.

Also make sure you read:

POINT BLANC . . . interview with Raymond Blanc for the new series

Introduction to The Restaurant

Raymond BlancWorld-renowned chef and restaurateur Raymond Blanc returns to BBC Two for The Restaurant, the series in which nine couples battle it out for a once in a lifetime opportunity to open a new restaurant with him.

Passionate Blanc will be hands-on in his role as master restauranteur. To inspire the couples for each week's challenges, he will share and demonstrate his creative talents with them in a search to find the pair with the flair, enthusiasm and abilities necessary to succeed in the tough but hugely rewarding world to which he has dedicated his life.

Each couple competes to prove they have the vision and talent to create their perfect restaurant and open it to the paying public. They must turn their business into a success or risk facing one of Raymond's rigorous challenges.

Each week's losing couple will have their restaurant closed – for good.

Adding to the pressure are eagle-eyed inspectors and industry experts Sarah Willingham and David Moore, on a mission to scrutinise all aspects of the couples' restaurants, food, service and business acumen.

Each week, Raymond eliminates one couple until just the triumphant winners remain.

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Co-executive Producer, Patrick Uden, explains the concept behind the series: "Almost anyone who can cook or is a great host has at some point been told, 'You should run a restaurant'. And many people see it as a dream of liberation from the nine-to-five drudgery of their current life.

"Raymond Blanc embodies that dream; he has elevated the idea of a restaurant to a fairyland otherness and on entering his world the spirits are lifted.

"In The Restaurant, Raymond offers hope to those who aspire to enter this world, yet he is also all too aware of the dark side: the sheer hard graft required, the long hours, the problems that can arise at any time – staff not turning up, wrong deliveries, an oven breaking down, the list of pitfalls is seemingly endless.

"But for those with the right passion, skills and determination, the rewards can be great."

Co-executive Producer, Chloe Solomon, continues: "Raymond is legendary for discovering talent. He fires-up the imagination and, because he is completely self-taught, knows all too well the value of knowledge and training.

"He has nurtured more Michelin-starred chefs and front of house managers than any other chef, and our couples hope he will spot that potential in them as he pushes, inspires and encourages them to fulfil their potential.

"More than anything, Raymond is excited by a desire and capacity to learn. This spirit of the possible is at the heart of The Restaurant."

The judges

Raymond Blanc
Born in Besançon, France in 1949, Raymond Blanc 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.

Raymond Blanc arrived in England in 1972 to work as a waiter at the Rose Revived Restaurant near Witney. When the chef became ill he took over and two years later the restaurant gained entry into the Michelin Guide.

At the age of 28 Raymond Blanc opened his first restaurant, Les 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.

It was in 1984 that he fulfilled a personal vision, creating a hotel and restaurant in harmony when he opened Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Great Milton, Oxford.

Le Manoir is the only country house hotel in the UK which has achieved two Michelin Stars for a total of 22 years.

In 1986, Raymond opened his first Brasserie Blanc in Oxford - his aim was to be the best within the brasserie scene in England serving good quality, affordable food. He now has eight brasseries across the UK.

Passionate about sharing his knowledge, in 1991, Raymond Blanc established his eponymous cookery school, welcoming both enthusiastic amateurs and professional cooks to the kitchen.

The school provides the opportunity to develop their skills while learning some of Raymond's own kitchen secrets.

Raymond has also written a host of best-selling cookery books.

Inspector, Sarah Willingham
Sarah is one of the youngest, most successful people in the food and leisure industry.

She was recently acknowledged as one of the "35 most successful women under 35" in the UK, featured in the Courvoisier Top 500 and in Business Weekly's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2007.

With two business degrees under her belt, the Staffordshire born, self-confessed foodie focused her attention on a career in restaurants and leisure.

For over a decade Sarah has managed some of the biggest brands in the restaurant industry, from Planet Hollywood in France to Pizza Express International where she oversaw restaurant openings in 12 countries.

In 2004 Sarah was part of a consortium which acquired The Bombay Bicycle Club in London. She swiftly turned it from a loss-making business into a profitable one and it is now the largest chain of Indian restaurants in the UK.

Sarah is also an ambassador for a positive work-life balance, being the proud mother of two children.

Inspector, David Moore
David is the longstanding creative force behind London's Pied à Terre restaurant which opened in 1991.

He began his career under the leadership of Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons.

His superlative Front of House management skills have taken him to some of the most illustrious dining establishments including The Box Tree in Ilkley, the Louis XV in Monaco and La Belle Otero in Cannes, France.

It is a love of French haute cuisine that drives David forward.

Since its launch, his restaurant has achieved two Michelin Stars. In 2007, he opened a sister restaurant, L'Autre Pied, with business partner Shane Osborn and Chef Marcus Eaves from Pied à Terre.

As befits a consummate Front of House professional, David prides himself on his attention to detail and can even be found rearranging objects in other restaurants to improve the aesthetic.

Extolling the virtues of a well organised waiter station, he is an expert multi-tasker who insists on keeping an air of mystery in his restaurants, adding to the magic of the dining experience.

The couples

Annette and Kashelle

Annette (Chef) and Kashelle (Front of House)

This mother and daughter from South Yorkshire want to remind diners of their holidays with their Caribbean-themed concept, a restaurant that brings the best of food from the West Indies to England.

Restaurant name and concept:
Caribbean Delights, with a menu that represents food from most of the Caribbean islands.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Jamaican-born Annette (47) is a home carer for the elderly and mum to three children. Kashelle (25), a freelance actress, is a single mum with a four-year-old son.

Annette has hired a kitchen every Sunday since May 2007 so she can cook and sell Caribbean food. Kashelle helps as front of house with their weekly "eat as much as you like" Caribbean buffet and has ten years' experience working in different restaurants.

"My mum's always talking about opening up a Caribbean restaurant. It's nice to know her dream is finally coming alive." Kashelle

Caroline and Chris

Caroline (Front of House) and Chris (Chef)

This married couple from South Yorkshire wants to celebrate the best of hearty British cooking with their restaurant.

Restaurant name and concept:
Ray White's (an anglicised version of Raymond Blanc!) will offer a simple menu of British food made with quality ingredients.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Chris (26) has been a chef at a pub for the past nine years. Caroline (23) is an extended schools worker. Chris trained for three years at catering college and was inspired to become a chef after watching Gary Rhodes on TV in the early Nineties.

A few years ago Chris set up a small business catering for dinner parties in his spare time. Caroline has spent many years working with the public and believes this experience has given her the right skills to be the perfect front of house hostess.

Chris says he loses his temper too easily because he gets frustrated if things don't go his way. Caroline says she's scatty but also creative and positive.

"It's the biggest thing that has happened in our lives so far. I want to be able to say we've achieved something. I want to be able to say this is our restaurant." Caroline


Helen and Stephen

Helen (Chef) and Stephen (Front of House)

A married couple from Cambridgeshire who believe restaurants should be family-friendly and offer children the kind of food they might otherwise dismiss.

Restaurant name and concept:
Nel's will offer a menu that is a mix of rustic European fusion-style cooking; a family restaurant that serves good, wholesome food to families of all ages in an appealing and fun way.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Married eight years ago, Stephen (46) is an ex-naval officer who now works as a Sales and Marketing Director, and Helen (44) used to work in marketing. They have six children.

They think they could be the new "Fanny and Johnny" (TV cooks in the Fifties) as they describe themselves as tenacious, robust, perfectionists and bossy. Helen is a keen cook who, with Stephen, has catered for 80 people at family events.

She has worked in professional kitchens, including a sports complex where she filled in for the chef. She has also just finished a stint with Hotel Chocolat running their tasting clubs.

Stephen thinks he might be the only man in Britain who owns four paella pans and loves cooking up a feast on his barbecue.

"Having been given this wonderful opportunity we will give it everything we have to succeed because I can't see it happening to us anytime again soon." Helen

Alasdair and James

James (Chef) and Alasdair (Front of House)

These young friends from Devon believe in fine dining and want to run a Michelin-starred restaurant one day.

Restaurant name and concept:
Fine dining restaurant named The Gallery.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Alasdair (25) is a waiter/supervisor at Pizza Express. James (26) is currently a bouncer but he used to work as a chef de partie at Michelin-starred restaurants, including The Square and Gordon Ramsey at Claridges. He believes he has what it takes to be a Michelin-starred chef.

Both have catering qualifications and James has taught at a catering college. They are best friends and have worked together previously turning a rundown city centre pub into a successful pub/restaurant.

Alasdair describes himself as a shy kind of guy whilst James is blunt and direct, but they are both very confident in their abilities.

Their restaurant inspiration partly comes from Alasdair's photography hobby and they plan to cover the restaurant with his photographs.

"Our dream as a pair would be to run a high class Michelin starred restaurant. Definitely. We are both very driven and ambitious." James

Laura and Peter

Laura (Front of House) and Peter (Chef)

This couple from South Wales want to blend the best of East Asian and Welsh cuisine in their restaurant.

Restaurant name and concept:
The Welsh Wok will be a Welsh-Chinese fusion restaurant that serves a rustic menu with Welsh and Eastern influences.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Peter (41) is a team manager with a blue chip company. Laura (32) is a service manager.

Laura says she could be described as a worrier and a control freak – she lists cleaning as a hobby. Pete sees the best in everyone and is an optimist.

Laura has never worked in the restaurant business and has never worked with Peter. They both think it will be a challenge being together 24-hours a day.

Peter jointly owned and cooked in his family's Cantonese takeaway for 15 years and, although he doesn't have any formal training, he is a proficient cook and loves to prepare big Chinese banquets and Sunday lunches.

His father and grandfather were both chefs and, after working for nearly four years as a team manager, he is keen to return to cooking.

Laura, from a Welsh farming family, believes her people skills will equip her well in hospitality and has always wanted to work in the industry.

"Food means everything to us. I was brought up on a farm. Everything revolves around meals – when we're eating one meal we're talking about the next." Laura


Lindsie and Tim

Lindsie (Front of House) and Tim (Chef)

This married couple from Kent believe an affordable, ethically sourced restaurant should be available to everyone.

Restaurant name and concept:
True Provenance will be a modern European-style brasserie specialising in regional, seasonal dishes. Their concept puts the emphasis on the ingredients' provenance.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Lindsie (36) is an HR manager. Tim (40) is a TGI Friday's operations manager and line cook.

They have been married for five years and have a 14-month son, Noah.

Concerned about being together 24-hours a day, they consider themselves competitive. Tim has 10 years' experience as a cook and has worked in the restaurant business for 20 years.

He has risen from pot-washer to Head Chef to management, now running nine restaurants with a £25million turnover, but he regrets not pushing himself as a chef at an earlier age.

Lindsie has five years' experience as a waitress from her school years and currently is perfecting her cooking techniques by preparing all her own organic home-cooked meals for their baby.

"I'm in midlife, I'm due a crisis. I had a choice, really – it was either a Porsche, an affair with an 18–year-old waitress or opening a restaurant. The restaurant is the one that we landed on." Tim

Michele and Russell

Michele (Front of House) and Russell (Chef)

This couple from Essex believe a family-friendly restaurant with a warm, inviting atmosphere is a must.

Restaurant name and concept:
The Cheerful Soul will be a warm, friendly place with eclectic furniture and home-sewn table cloths.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Michele (34) and Russell (30) have known each other for six years and already work together running a small buffet business.

Russell is the chef, writing menus, preparing food and keeping financial records, while Michele liaises with the clients, helps in the kitchen and serves on the night.

After setting up their business with just £80 they reached a turnover of £35,000 in their first year.

Russell is an experienced chef and has worked in a restaurant since the age of 12. They love working together but are considering going back to regular jobs to make enough money to start their own restaurant business although the possibility of spending time apart is really upsetting them.

"I think we've got what it takes to run a successful restaurant. I've got the skills to look after the customers and Russell is fantastic in the kitchen." Michele

Harriet and Mike

Harriet (Chef) and Mike (Front of House)

A father-and-daughter pairing, from Surrey, who believe quality and value don't need to be compromised and that simple is best.

Restaurant name and concept:
The Blue Goose will be a Les Routiers-style diner offering a short menu of value, with quick service for the daytime and a slower pace for the evening. They believe that a simple brasserie would be the ideal way to showcase the best of British produce.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Mike (57) is the director of two recruitment businesses. Harriet (26) is an event planner and has worked as a Crown Court clerk.

Although neither is formally trained, Harriet and Mike are knowledgeable about food and Harriet is a passionate cook.

They often serve three-course dinner parties for up to 24 people. Harriet is Mike's only child and they are very close.

"I hope Raymond Blanc would think of us as an interesting dynamic, a strong team with some good potential and good existing skills." Harriet


Richard and Scott

Richard (Front of House) and Scott (Chef)

This couple, from Sussex, has been together for five years and say they’ve never had an argument. They worked together in the airline business and love the idea of setting up a relaxed restaurant together.

Restaurant name and concept:
Sorbet and Seasons will be a relaxed meeting place, serving up seasonal, locally-sourced food.

Background and culinary qualifications:
Richard (41) used to be an airline steward and is now the director of a soft drinks company. Scott (35) is a manager in first and business class for an airline.

They believe an air steward's career is the perfect background for running a restaurant.

They are both very organised and believe that attention to detail is the key to a successful restaurant.

Richard has spent all his life working with the public and loves it. He describes himself as cool, calm and someone who likes to lead by example.

Scott thinks his friends would consider him a perfectionist who remains calm under pressure. Scott trained as a chef 18 years ago but now fulfils his passion by cooking for friends and family.

His job also ensures he spends many hours preparing and presenting food for his well-heeled passengers.

"I've never cooked on a commercial scale. The biggest number I've cooked for is 12 at a dinner party but I loved every minute of it. And I ended up doing the washing up as well." Scott

www.raymondblanc.com

Source of content BBC TV
Published 17 September 2008

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