Overall ranking: 11
Chef ranking: 4
Raymond Blanc - Snapshot
Raymond Blanc is chef-patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, an award-winning 32-bedroom country house hotel with a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and a cookery school for both amateurs and professionals. He is also a director of Blanc Brasseries and the star of BBC2's reality show The Restaurant.
Raymond Blanc - Career guide
Raymond Blanc, who was born in Besançon in France in 1949, first came to the UK as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant near Whitney, Oxfordshire, in 1972. He opened his Les Quat’Saisons restaurant in Summertown, Oxford, in 1977, winning his first Michelin star in 1979 and his second in 1983.
In 1984 he moved to a 15th-century manor in Great Milton, reopening as a restaurant with rooms called Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. He added cookery school L’Ecole de Cuisine in 1991 and teamed up with Virgin Hotels the following year to expand the property into a 32-bedroom hotel. In 1996 he opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford.
Virgin baled out in 2002, selling its majority stake in Le Manoir and its 50% holding in Le Petit Blanc to Orient-Express Hotels for £27.5m. The four-strong brasserie chain fell into administration in 2003, after difficulties with central costs, before being rescued by Loch Fyne Restaurants.
In March 2006 the management team behind Loch Fyne Restaurants, including chief executive Mark Derry, completed a buyout with Blanc of the Le Petit Blanc chain for £3m and renamed it Brasserie Blanc. The chain now has eight sites, the latest of which opened in March 2010 in the City of London.
Raymond Blanc - What we think
Blanc has risen to the top despite being a chef with no formal training. In 2007 he was appointed OBE 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. In 2009 Blanc was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cateys, 19 years after winning the Chef Award, as well as picking up the same accolade from the AA.
Le Manoir, one of just 24 UK members of Relais & Châteaux, is the only country house hotel in the UK to have held two Michelin stars for 23 years – although Blanc has never hid his ambition to win a third. It is an AA Top 200 hotel, with four red stars and five rosettes.
But Blanc is most revered for his dedication to training – Marco Pierre White, Richard Neat, Paul Heathcote, John Burton Race, Michael Caines and Eric Chavot are just some of the Michelin-starred chefs to have passed through his kitchens. In 1995 he set up the Raymond Blanc Scholarship to offer winning chefs aged 25 or more a two-year training programme.
In a Caterer interview that reunited White with Blanc in 2007, the former said of his mentor: “Raymond is the most multidimensional chef this country has ever seen. No one has a palate like him. He is the only genius I ever met in the kitchen - the rest do it by numbers.”
A vociferous campaigner for better food, Blanc takes every opportunity to lambast modern industrial food production methods and environmental destruction. He spoke at the 2009 Real Food Festival, strongly advocating a return to more sustainable food networks and a stronger culinary culture.
Outside the industry, Blanc is best known for hosting BBC’s The Restaurant, which puts nine couples through their paces to see if they have what it takes to run their own restaurant.
The programme, which has been running for three series, marked a new stage in Blanc's career, bringing the industry and its challenges to a whole new audience and showing his restaurant management skills along with those of being a chef. Its success saw the BBC commission Blanc to launch his own cooking show, Kitchen Secrets.
Over the past few years Blanc has also written a number of books, including Cooking For Friends, A Blanc Christmas, the Sunday Times bestseller Recipes from Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Blanc Vite, Foolproof French Cookery and, most recently, the autobiographical A Taste of My Life.
In 2010 Blanc started blogging on Caterersearch, sharing his views on the industry and providing an insight into life at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
Raymond Blanc - Further information