'I love difficulties and huge challenges. In fact, I live for them...'
The story - in brief - of Raymond Blanc
One of the world’s most respected chefs, Raymond Blanc is totally self-taught.
His story begins in Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Jura mountains, where Raymond was born. He 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 create meals for the family; wholesome meals full of goodness and love.
In the summer of 1972, Raymond arrived in England to work as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant in Oxfordshire. One day, when the chef was ill, Raymond took over the kitchen. At that very moment, his career was born.
In 1977, Raymond opened his first restaurant, Les Quat’Saisons in Summertown, Oxford. It was an overnight success, winning Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year, and two prestigious Michelin stars within a couple of years.
It was in 1984, however, that Raymond fulfilled a personal vision, creating a hotel and restaurant in harmony when he opened Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Le Manoir combines magnificent surroundings with gastronomic excellence. It is the only UK country house hotel to have retained two Michelin stars for over 30 years. Le Manoir’s eleven stunning gardens, including the vast kitchen gardens, are the envy of botanists worldwide. “His house is as beautiful as a tale of Lewis Carroll,” observed the acclaimed French food writer Gilles Pudlowski.
Raymond has always felt compelled to share his culinary knowledge and, in 1991, he established The Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Based within Le Manoir’s kitchens, the school welcomes enthusiastic amateurs and professional cooks, as well as children, providing the opportunity for home cooks to develop their skills in a relaxed and friendly environment.
In 1996, Raymond opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford. More brasseries followed. In 2006 the group was re-launched as Brasserie Blanc and there are now some 20 restaurants across England. The brasseries offer French classics and modern dishes, all made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Each of the brasseries is a place to relax, and enjoy 'real French food, close to home' and at affordable prices.
In 2008, Raymond was awarded an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen, in recognition of his services in promoting culinary excellence and for raising awareness about the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life. In 2013 he was awarded the insignia of Chevalier in the Ordre National de La Légion d’Honneur, the highest French decoration.
Never one to guard his secrets and passion, Raymond has championed and nurtured some of the country’s most respected chefs personally in his kitchens, including such names as Marco Pierre White, Michael Caines, Bruno Loubet, Eric Chavot and Ollie Dabbous. Some 26 of his protégées have gone on to win Michelin stars for themselves. It is no wonder that in 2005 he was voted AA’s Chefs’ Chef of the Year.
Raymond is a best-selling author and his BBC television series have included such titles as Kew on a Plate, The Very Hungry Frenchman, Kitchen Secrets and the Restaurant. His latest book ‘Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons: The Story of a Modern Classic’ offers a truly personal tour of the legendary hotel and restaurant through the four seasons.
Raymond is the father of two sons, Olivier and Sebastien.
An acknowledged champion of sustainability, Raymond is President of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and Ambassador for Sustainable Fish City and the Marine Stewardship Council. He is patron of Earth Trust.
He is also Vice-President of Garden Organic, the UK's leading organic-growing charity, and Countryside Ambassador for Campaign to Protect Rural England. He works closely with Royal Horticultural Society and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
Raymond is patron of SeeSaw, which provides grief support for young people in Oxfordshire. He is an ambassador for Action Against Hunger.
He is London Ambassador for the London Food Board.
He supports many charities and is a member of many associations, such as: Slow Food UK; Fish2Fork; Thames Valley Farmers' Market Co-operative; Club des Cents; the Academy of Culinary Arts; the French Foreign Trade Advisors Group in the UK; the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain; the Guild of Food Writers, Maître of the Confrèrie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, and Disciples d’Escoffier of Great Britain.
Raymond is Culinary Director of Eurostar’s Business Premier service, and Chef Director of the Diamond Club at Arsenal Football Club.