Why I'm a little bit British
Although Raymond Blanc is perhaps the Frenchest man in Britain, he's also just a little bit British too. But then, maybe this is because when it comes to what we eat, we are now just a little bit French. Or, to be more accurate, we are a little bit Raymond Blanc-esque. His influence has been immense, in so many ways. His Oxfordshire hotel and restaurant, Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons, is the culinary equivalent of the finest Swiss finishing school: 27 chefs who have worked for him have gone on to win Michelin stars. He's bequeathed an entire generation of British chefs his creed that food is not just food, but "life, joy, celebration, holding hands and saying that I love you toujours".
He was ahead of his time in championing organic produce and local provenance, but given how outspoken he's been about the state of British food – the memory of the fish and chips he ate on the ferry over still makes him wrinkle his nose in disgust – he admits that the gulf between the two countries is not what it was.
So is French food still the best? "Everything changes. It is true that the French, more than any other nation, have exported their food culture across the world. But creatively what is happening is that both consumers and chefs are changing, and that's an exciting moment because British gastronomy can now match the very best of France, and that is new."
What marks out his cooking, he says, is that he has been "enriched" by British culture. "If you take Arab culture in France, their food has not entered the repertoire. Whereas here the food of Pakistan and India has entered it completely. My food is French still but I have been enriched by other cultures. And that is the difference between me and a Frenchman who has stayed in France."