Thursday, 30 May 2013
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: RAYMOND BLANC
RAYMOND BLANC OBE, is one of the UK’s most respected chefs. His restaurant, Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, has held its two Michelin stars for 29 years. He was recently made London Ambassador for Good Jobs in Food.What are you working on at the moment?
A new organic garden that will be for heritage fruit and vegetables. It’s part of a campaign to get more of us growing our own food. I’m also supporting the RHS Britain In Bloom campaign, Edible Britain, which is seeing community gardening groups create 2,000 edible gardens all over the country. I was a gardener long before I was a cook, and I grew up learning about varieties of fruit and vegetables, so it comes as second nature to me.
When were you at your happiest?
There are so many moments. As one gets older, there are more and more, which is something that I am very grateful for. One of my happiest was winning my second Michelin star; my first kiss when I was a young boy, aged around 17; being presented with a special bottle of 1812 Napoleon Brandy. I’m now at my happiest when I’m training young people to become the best they can possibly be.
What is your greatest fear?
I am a self-made man, so I can be a little unrealistic as well as being quite forgetful, so the combination can worry me – there is so much that potentially can go wrong. I would also hate to be alone in an unfriendly environment – there is nothing so important as friends and family.
What is your earliest memory?
Going on an Easter-egg hunt before Easter Sunday. There was the most incredible frosted egg and when you looked through it, you could see more little eggs inside. It was a magical sight. We could never have afforded it and we didn’t realise, but Maman Blanc had hidden it in the garden and she made sure that I was the first to find it – before my bigger brother, before anyone. I cherish that moment.
Who has been your greatest influence?
Without a doubt my maman – Maman Blanc is an incredible influence when it comes to food and cooking. She is always so inventive and yet so classic. Nothing fazes her or worries her when it comes to her domain – the kitchen. She is my heroine.
What do you most dislike about yourself?
I don’t have much that I dislike about myself. I have lived in England for a long time and see how much it has changed over the last 30 years, and how integrated and multicultural it has become. With its growth, I have also been able to relax and laugh much more about myself and at myself. If there is anything I had to choose, it is my anxiety. I have lived with it for so long, if I didn’t have it any more, I would probably miss it! Also, I can be over-emotional. I’m not a bad guy, just sometimes a bit intense when I truly care about something – like my métier.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I cannot deny I have a little belly now – something I didn’t have when I was a young man. But when I was young I had a very large nose, which I have grown into most definitely. But I am comfortable with my appearance now – I have had long enough to get used to it.
What is your favourite meal?
Those spent with loved ones. A relaxed moment, when you are free from tension and stress. Sunday lunch is a particular favourite, because it can go on and on and then you have the whole evening stretching in front of you to relax. I also love breakfast and I am so happy to see that people in Britain are now reconnecting with food culture and health. More of us are realising that a healthy breakfast is so important. It doesn’t have to be boring: poached eggs, roasted tomatoes, porridge – trying different varieties, for example almond milk one day, cow’s milk the next. If you keep it interesting and learn about nutrition, you’ll never be bored.
What is your all-time favourite book?
Dostoevsky influenced much of my thinking: I loved Crime And Punishment. I am also fascinated by Emile Zola – he wrote many wonderful books. One of my favourites is Le Ventre De Paris [The Belly Of Paris], set around Les Halles, the busy central market of 19th-century Paris.
Which phrases do you most overuse?
Voilà; Oh là là!; Let me explain; Mon petit…
What trait do you most deplore in others?
Selfishness and laziness.
What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘You’re a Good Egg’ would be nice. After all, I was given a Considerate Good Egg Award by the Considerate Hoteliers Association a few years ago.
Daily tip from the lady archive
"AS a general rule, one’s stern duty in life seems to be to avoid the things in life that are pleasant, especially in the matter of diet."The Lady. Living Well. 16th August, 1928
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Q: A new EU target is set to reduce plastic bag use by 80 per cent. Do you still use plastic bags when you shop?
Yes all the time - 21.4%
No, never - 18.6%
Only sometimes - 60%