WEDNESDAY 30 MAY 2012 A VISIT TO THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE IN PARIS
A Visit to the British Ambassador's Residence in Paris....
(and tearing up my speech!)
Last week, I was a host of the British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, and his wife Lady Ricketts. I must tell you that the Ambassador’s Residence is one of the most grand and beautifully designed residences in the whole of Paris… but I could not see very much of Paris: I was here to work, and rather scary it was too!
I had to speak to a gathering of 200 French entrepreneurs and journalists and the speech, I realised a few hours before had to be delivered in French not English. I rarely write speeches; I find them too formulaic. I would rather ramble and let the passion gush out… but not this one - too many dignitaries, too many critical minds who like structure! So I made my life hell and that of a few other close friends around me (Lalla Dutt and James Steen to name but two)!
While crossing the Chanel with the wonderful Eurostar, which delivered us right to the heart of Paris, I hammered this speech with sweat, blood and… fear - there is nothing like feeling unprepared.
Sir Peter Ricketts (your - our Ambassador in France) introduced me to his house and told me, with great generosity, that I could come any time as a guess at his magnificent home - I think I will take him up on his kind offer! The house is truly one of the finest in Paris. Situated on the Faubourg St Honoré and originally owned by Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon I, she sold it in 1814 to the Duke of Wellington, with much of her furniture. It has been the residence of the British Ambassadors to France ever since.
Have a look at these wonderful photographs: these are the entrances to the side of the main entrance to the house: the horses show the entrance to the stables, and the marvelous mastiff dog which has captured a wild boar is showing the way to the kitchens!
Then, the dreaded moment - like The Very Hungry Frenchman tv programme, when I cooked for Frenchmen who know everything about food, I had to talk in French (with my little English accent - hard to believe to you, maybe, but it is true!) to a large crowd of professionals.
As ever, I completely forgot the script which had taken me and my friend James Steen two days to write - and went freestyle!
I was introduced by His Excellency as a pioneer of British cuisine, the saviour of British craft and the champion of sustainability… it is a lot for a small man like me!
There was no speech which could rise to this expectation. I was so overwhelmed that I immediately dumped my speech, and everything that had gone into it!
Ok friends, I was nervous: it reminded me of cooking for Frenchmen for the first time ever! Frightening!
Here, I had to make a speech promoting the FCO, the Olympic Games in London, Britishness, the GREAT things about Britain, and also some of the secrets of my success as an entrepreneur in Great Britain. And all this under the scrutiny of the British Ambassador sitting in the front row, in the Ambassador's Residence, with British flags waving - and all of this without betraying my Frenchness!
PS Please tell me what you think of my blogs and my website: I want to hear from you!
DVD of Raymond Blanc's hugely successful five part series - The Very
Hungry Frenchman - broadcast on BBC2 earlier this year, is now on sale.
To purchase your copy from Amazon, please click on the link below:
If you would like a signed copy of the DVD, this can be ordered via Le Manoir's website. Please click on the link below and request a signed copy in the 'special instructions' box at checkout:
Follow Raymond Blanc on Twitter
Contact Raymond via the Contact page of the website