TUESDAY 03 APRIL 2012 LE MANOIR IS 28 YEARS OLD
Le Manoir is 28
On its 28th anniversary Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is, of course, my personal dream coming true.
Worldwide, Le Manoir is now recognised as a centre of excellence, a multifaceted place of beauty; at the heart of it lies a strong culture of care, nurturing, generosity and welcome. It is simply one of the happiest place on earth.
First and foremost it’s a place for celebration all year around – not just on its own birthday. About half our guests come here for a personal event that is special to them, many even for a once-in-a-lifetime treat – something they’ve saved up for and dreamed about for themselves. If you look in the car park any evening, alongside the Bentleys and Rollers you’ll see 50 per cent small cars. Le Manoir’s about romance and love – a place for holding hands and feeling sentimental, and occasionally, why not?, showing off your lovely new motor.
This is deliberate, and maybe my republican values got the best of me. When I started Le Manoir, I stripped out the protocol of tables, I wanted a place where my own parents would feel comfortable and happy. So I made a place where your parents - everybody’s parents –would feel welcome. For me, luxury should be inclusive, not exclusive.
Twenty-eight years ago it was a radical way to design a luxury hotel and restaurant. We shunned gold taps in the gorgeous bathrooms, there are no ancestors looking down at you from the walls, the dining room is not a temple or a shrine, and our food has nothing in common with the normal French nosebag. We offer luxury demystified, made accessible and comfortable, not ostentatious bling. Luxury is aspirational, to be shared, for everybody. Le Manoir is now fast becoming a modern classic.
We’ve had plenty of crises in the last 28 years, but we’ve got through them and learned from them – even profited from them.
I’ve lucky to be surrounded by about 200 top-notch staff, including around 35 – my generals and other officers – who have been with me for more than 10 years. It is the staff who preserve and increase our emotional capital, because the longer they are here, the more they come notjust to share, but along with me, own the culture of Le Manoir – the food culture and the people culture – and to pass it along to those they work with and train. The existence of a large number of young people who share this culture is the interest we receive on our capital.
We have big plans afoot for the coming years. More gardens are being planned and planted, including medicinal herbs to become Maman Blanc’s Herb Garden (this garden will be created with Jekka McVicar and also with the help of a great friend the herbalist, Michael McIntyre), and a four-season wild flower meadow with Chris Beardshaw. We are thinking and redesigning our Japanese Fugetsu-An Tea House Garden, and another addition will be the Heritage Organic Garden. Alongside the hugely successful Raymond Blanc Cookery School we will be adding a Gardening School. In the building above it, we are making a studio where artists can paint, draw andsculpt. We’re expanding our orchard, and planting another 1,000 trees. Soon, bee villages will be added, along with fruit hedges, rows of fruit trees and shrubs of the best varieties – even some chickens and other appropriate livestock to create the perfect integrated eco-system.
With Gary and Benoit we are now reviewing each dish, and trying to extract the quintessence of its beauty. As ever, Le Manoir goes on always reinventing itself. As it should do.
My ambition was always to create a modern classic, which would provide an extraordinary experience for our guests. Le Manoir has always been a huge training centre for chefs and front of house managers. We have trained, in our kitchens alone, 27 Michelin chefs, and have been the heart of a huge culinary revolution, which is now animating every city and town in Britain.
I have been blessed to be the architect of this place, but at the same time I would like to say how grateful to my team and my field marshals and generals who have supported me in this hugely ambitious project. And how could I not acknowledge Orient-Express who have supported me throughout.
From a Very Hungry Frenchman who is celebrating 28 years with his team, thank you for joining us.
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