Raymond Blanc and Kate Humble to explore history of fruit and vegetables at Kew Gardens for BBC Two
Alison Kirkham, BBC Head of Commissioning, Factual Features and Formats, has commissioned Kew on a Plate, a hugely ambitious 4 programme of 60 minutes each for BBC Two from Lion Television.
The BBC has been granted special permission for two Michelin Star chef Raymond Blanc to transform an area of the gardens into a sumptuous fruit and vegetable garden, which will be created on the site of what was once Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen garden.
Raymond will be joined by co-presenter Kate Humble, and together they will use this garden to explore the fascinating history and provenance of the heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables that Raymond plans to grow, across all four seasons. Raymond will then go on to cook delicious recipes using the seasonal produce he creates.
With unprecedented access, Lion Television will spend a year filming at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which is not only one of the UK’s best-loved attractions, but also the world’s most important centre of botanical expertise. Kew on a Plate is a feast: a fascinating look at the fruit and vegetables we love with inspirational new ideas from Raymond Blanc about how to cook with them.
Raymond said: “What a privilege it is to be working on this project with Kew and the BBC. This is particularly close to my heart and I am sure viewers will share my inspiration and passion for British heritage, the garden and the glorious food that I will cook from it."
Kate said: “There is astonishing history, science and stories of human endeavour behind the everyday vegetables we grow, cook and eat. This is a series that is going to be full of surprises and delights, a celebration of the ingredients that so often make up the side dish, but now, for once, can take centre stage.”
Alison Kirkham said: “It is very exciting to be granted such unique access - working with Kew to re-establish an historical garden within their grounds. It is a project of scale and ambition that I hope will shine an unfamiliar light on some of the most familiar food in our lives. Raymond brings with him a lifetime’s passion for fruit and veg and their heritage, as well as three decades of experience in his own restaurant kitchen garden. He will undoubtedly bring the project to life with his characteristic charm”.
Lion Television said:“We are thrilled to be part of this ambitious partnership between Kew and the BBC. It's a privilege to be working with one of the country's greatest chefs and the world's most remarkable gardens. Raymond Blanc and the team of Kew gardeners will be bringing back to life an historic royal kitchen garden and, in doing so, will reveal the rich heritage and fascinating science behind some of the nation’s favourite fruit and vegetables. Bound together by some irresistible seasonal recipes, we are going to explore our changing tastes, tell the remarkable stories of how these plants first arrived in the UK, brought back by intrepid plant hunters from countries around the world, how they flourished, adapted, spread through the country to became part of our everyday diet".
Director of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Richard Deverell, said: “I am delighted the BBC and RBG Kew are working together with Raymond Blanc to bring alive the wonderful stories of the history and heritage of some of our most loved fruit and vegetables. This series will weave together history, science, horticulture and cookery amidst the beautiful landscape of Kew Gardens. I am confident it will be a tremendous success”.
Nothing like this has been attempted before, but for Raymond, the heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables inspire as much love as cooking itself. With his vision, and the skill and dedication of the gardening team, this series will see the plot restored to its former glory bursting with the best produce Britain has to offer.
Through our heritage varieties, the series will also unlock the fascinating history of Britain’s fruit and vegetables and the extraordinary stories of some our favourite foods. Every species of fruit and every type of vegetable that ends up on our plate has its own story – of exploration, obsessive collection, invention, scientific ingenuity, exotic fashion, propaganda and changing tastes. The series will explore how these plants arrived in the UK, brought back by intrepid plant hunters, how they flourished, were bred to create new varieties and new tastes and how they became part of our everyday diet. We’ll also examine the cutting edge science at Kew involving many of these plants and discover what surprising secrets lie beneath their skins.
The programme will attempt to cure its own vanilla, a fiendishly difficult task and one that hasn’t been tried before at Kew. Viewers will see how the gooseberry helped Darwin shape his theory of evolution and natural selection; why people believed eating tomatoes would kill you; why the purple carrots we grow are really what carrots should look like; pick rhubarb by candlelight in the middle of the night; and explore the pineapple craze which at one time saw people paying £5000 per fruit!
Raymond brings with him unparalleled expertise. For decades he has grown numerous varieties of heritage fruit and vegetables and knows exactly which apple is the perfect variety for his Tarte Tartin or which potato makes the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast. He will select rare varieties that were once the mainstay of British gardens and, as the months pass and the fruit and vegetables grow, he will harvest and cook them to create delicious, fresh and seasonal dishes, their unique flavours perfectly matched to mouth-watering recipes.
After the filming, the vegetable garden will be open to public to come and enjoy a unique opportunity to experience this exciting project first hand.
Kew on a Plate is a 4x60’ series for BBC Two. The Executive Producers are Alison Kirkham for the BBC and Donna Clark and Richard Bradley for Lion Television.
* www.raymondblanc.com will post updates regarding the show developments and will share more information in due course.