The story of Raymond Blanc OBE
"Not bad for a little French man who arrived in Britain with absolutely nothing!"
Raymond Blanc is totally self-taught. Today he is one of the country's most respected chefs. Born in Besancon, the capital of the Franche Comte region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Jura mountains. Raymond was inspired by the local terroir, and most of all by his mother, the formidable Maman Blanc who used fresh, local and seasonal produce to produce meals for her family full of goodness and full of love.
Raymond started his career in England as a waiter at the Rose Revived Restaurant, and when the chef was taken ill one day he took over.
In 1977 Raymond and his wife Jenny opened their first restaurant, Les Quat' Saisons in Oxford. They put together all their meagre savings and mortgaged their house to raise the cash. Les Quat' Saisons was an overnight success, winning him Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year, prestigious Michelin stars and a host of other distinctions.
Maison Blanc, Raymond and Jenny's bakery and patisserie opened in Oxford in 1981 and was soon supplying Harrods and many top London restaurants with authentic French bread and patisseries.
It was in 1984, however, that he fulfilled a personal vision, creating an 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 19 years. "His house is as beautiful as a tale of Lewis Carroll" commented Gilles Pudlowski.
In 1991, Raymond Blanc established The Raymond Blanc Cookery School, welcoming both enthusiastic amateurs and professional cooks to the kitchen. The school provides the opportunity to develop their skills whilst learning some of Raymond Blanc's kitchen secrets.
Raymond Blanc opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford. His aim was to be the best within the brasserie scene in England - serving good quality, freshly prepared food at a price that was accessible and represented excellent value. Another three brasseries were opened in the subsequent years and achieved the perfection which Raymond Blanc had set out to achieve by becoming the only brasseries in the United Kingdom to achieve the Michelin Bib Gourmand.
In 2006, Le Petit Blanc Brasseries were relaunched as Brasserie Blanc, offering French classic and modern dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients at affordable prices to encourage guests to visit regularly. A place to relax and enjoy 'real French food, close to home'. There are now seven Brasseries Blancs around the country, with an eighth opening in the new regenerated Cabot Circus in Bristol in 2008.
Never one to jealously guard his secrets and passion, Raymond has championed and nurtured some of our most famous chefs personally in his kitchens (Marco Pierre White, Martin Burge, Michael Caines and Bruno Loubet amongst others). It's no wonder that he was voted the AA's Chefs Chef of the year by his peers in 2005.
In 2007 he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of his services in promoting culinary excellence and for raising awareness of the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life.
Over the past few years, Raymond Blanc has written a selection of best sellers, including 'Cooking For Friends', 'A Blanc Christmas', the Sunday Times bestseller 'Recipes from Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons', 'Blanc Vite' and 'Foolproof French Cookery'.
His new book, 'A taste of my life', is published by Transworld on 9th October 2008. In this memoir he tells the story of his childhood in rural France, his early experiences in England and his search for culinary perfection. Along the way he shares many of the secrets he has learned.
In September 2008 Raymond returns to the BBC for the second series of The Restaurant. In this show, he puts nine couples through their paces to see if they have what it takes to run their own restaurant. The winning couple will have the opportunity to open their own restaurant with Raymond as their business partner.
In July 2009, Raymond was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at The 2009 Catey Awards - the Catering industry's 'Oscars'.