The Handbook Meets Raymond Blanc

The Handbook Meets Raymond Blanc

This year, Raymond Blanc is celebrating the 21st anniversary of Brasserie Blanc so we caught up with the French chef to find out his kitchen secrets, which chefs we should be keeping an eye out for and the mantras he lives by.

This year is the 21st anniversary of Brasserie Blanc, what do you think has been key to its success?
I think it is fantastic how the Brasserie has evolved to stay relevant to the times both in terms of how they look and the menus have taken inspiration from the more global nature of our dining habits but stayed true to the dream that I had when I opened the first brasserie in Oxford – that of serving hearty, fresh, seasonal French food with great hospitality.

What made you choose Fulham Reach as the location for the next Brasserie Blanc?
There is always something magical about overlooking the River Thames. It is vibrant and alive so when the opportunity arose to open a brasserie there, how could I refuse! We look forward to welcoming guests in this summer.

Many of your protégés have gone on to win Michelin stars, can you tell us any chefs that we should be keeping an eye out for?
A young man who once worked with me for 11 years in The Raymond Blanc Cookery School, Nurdin Topham, has just returned from Hong Kong having received a Michelin star and will soon be opening in London, most definitely one to watch!

What would you say has been the biggest change in the restaurant industry since you started out as a chef?
Today’s modern guest wants to know where their food comes from and more people are dining out than ever, not just for special occasions. There are so many choices of restaurants and different cuisines today!

What’s your number one rule in the kitchen?
Seasoning! The slightest error can affect the whole flavour so it really is important that all my team take care over to taste, taste, taste the dish before it leaves the pass.

What’s the secret to success in the restaurant industry?
Keeping with the times whilst staying true to your values. Brasserie Blanc is celebrating its 21st birthday this year and I am proud that although it has grown to a group of 18 brasseries from the original Oxford Brasserie, we have a passionate, creative team on board who produce truly fantastic food and service; alongside our modern new look which will take us into the next 21 years.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about chefs and what might people not know?
That we are all tyrants in the kitchen! Truly great chefs are incredibly passionate about what they do and, as such, are driven to achieve perfection. Even now I am still learning every day from my peers in the industry.

If you had to pinpoint one standout moment in your career what would it be?
I am lucky that there are so many to choose from but if I had to it would be the day that I opened Le Manoir. It’s opening has led to so many momentous events in my life including achieving two Michelin stars, being awarded an OBE and, of course, that Brasserie Blanc continues to be enjoyed by so many guests.

Do you think Britain’s attitude to cooking is changing or is it that we just eat out more?
During the time I have lived here it has definitely changed. The availability of ingredients, the numerous cookery shows televised and books published shows that the British public are so much more adventurous than they used to be when it comes to cooking. In addition, you only have to look at a typical high street to see just how much the British public have embraced international dining whether it is street food or fine dining.

What drew you to Royal Ascot and having control of The Panoramic Restaurant?
Royal Ascot is such an iconic event in the British summer sporting calendar; the experience is like no other. I think that says it all really! I am truly proud to back at The Panoramic Restaurant for the second year [see what we thought here].

We’re in Brasserie Blanc on Walton Street – what do we order?
A difficult one! If I had to choose today it would be French onion soup followed by the slow-roast suckling pig with caramelised crackling and rounded off with the berry pavlova. A glass of Pinot Noir is also the perfect accompaniment.

What would we find in your fridge?
Some cheese from my lovely friend Eric Charriaux at Premier Cheese who also supplies Brasserie Blanc, some spring vegetables, lemons, smoked salmon and some apple juice from Le Manoir’s orchard.

Which London restaurants do you like to eat at?
Oo la la, there is no way I could say one single restaurant as there are so many excellent restaurants with so many cuisines; from street food to 3* Michelin restaurants! London is at true multicultural centre of creative excellence with so many talents. Some of my favourites are; Zuma and Roka for the best Japanese, for tapas Barrafina, for Italian Locanda Locatelli or Zafferano, for Indian Gymkhana or Benares, for French, Michel Roux at Le Gavroche.

We’re hosting a dinner party but can’t cook very well, what do you suggest we make?
The key to hosting a successful dinner party is not to make it too complex, otherwise you end up spending the evening away from your guests rather than enjoying their company. Anything which can be prepped in advance is ideal and you can really keep it simple such as starting the evening with a charcuterie platter that everyone can enjoy around the table. At this time of year a beautiful joint of slow roasted lamb shoulder and braised spring vegetables is the perfect main.

Finally, do you have any mottos or mantras to live by when it comes to food?
Fresh, local and seasonal! I cannot say that too often as it really is the key to an excellent dish. Understanding where the produce comes from, buying the best you can and preparing it simply means you will always be able to create a wonderful meal for your friends and family – this is something that I learnt from the formidable Maman Blanc!

Check out who else we’ve been meeting here

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