Raymond Blanc OBE (born 19 November 1949) is a French chef. He is one of Britain's most respected chefs. Blanc is the owner and chef at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, a hotel-restaurant in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, England. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and scored 9/10 in the Good Food Guide. He is entirely self-taught, but has himself taught or employed other chefs including (for a week's probation) Heston Blumenthal, John Burton-Race,Michael Caines, Paul Liebrandt,[and Marco Pierre White.
Blanc was born near Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Jura mountains. He grew up in Saône, a village just east of there.
While his two sisters were taught to cook by the influential Maman Blanc, his father taught Blanc and his two brothers to work in the kitchen garden. His father gave him a colander and foraging map for his 10th birthday, and what he collected his mother taught him to cook.
Training as a waiter, Blanc worked at the Michelin-starred Le Palais de la Bière in Besançon. In 1972 he was fired for upsetting the head chef (Blanc had offered him advice on how to cook); however, the manager knew of a job in England.
Not speaking English well enough to survive without a notepad, he was dispatched to The Rose Revived in Newbridge, Oxfordshire, arriving three days after landing at Dover in his Renault 5 Gordini. Blanc married the owner's daughter Jenny, and the couple had two sons.
Before striking out on his own in 1977, Blanc worked for a time under chef patron André Chavagnon, who had opened a French restaurant, La Sorbonne, in Oxford High Street in 1966.
In 1977, the Blancs opened Les Quat' Saisons in a row of modern shops in Summertown, Oxford: "We mortgaged the house, owed 18 further people, and opened in a corridor between a lingerie shop and Oxfam". An overnight success, he won "Egon Ronay Guide Restaurant of the Year", two Michelin stars and a host of other distinctions.
In 1981, Blanc opened La Maison Blanc, a chain of boulangeries and pâtisseries that also contain cafès. There are 14 branches of Maison Blanc across the country[clarification needed], including several in London and one in Oxford. Maison Blanc cakes are available nationwide in Waitrose.
In 1983, Blanc purchased a manor-house in the Oxfordshire village of Great Milton where he opened Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, a country house hotel and double Michelin starred restaurant. Awarded five AA stars and with a score of 19/20 from respected French guide Gault Millau, Le Manoir describes itself as "one of the ultimate gastronomic destinations in the country".
Blanc opened Le Petit Blanc, the first of a chain of smaller restaurants, in Oxford in June 1996. Blanc's stated aim with these was to bring the French philosophy of "good food being central to good living" to the United Kingdom. His desire was to create and serve food that can be enjoyed by everyone – "from the time-conscious business person to those looking for a welcoming family restaurant".
Blanc suffered two mini strokes when he was 42, believed to have been brought on by stress and overwork.
In June 2003, after nearly losing the chain to his ex-wife Jenny as part of his divorce settlement, the four Le Petit Blanc Brasseries (now known as Brasserie Blanc) in Birmingham (which closed in 2008), Cheltenham, Manchester and Oxford became part of the Loch Fyne Restaurant Group portfolio. Blanc maintains a share in the business, and continues to be involved creating new menus, developing the chef and kitchen teams and participating in the promotion of the restaurants. Since 1996, Raymond has opened the following branches of Brasserie Blanc:
1996 - Le Petit Blanc brasserie, Oxford. Awarded one Michelin Star in its first year and classed amongst the ten best restaurants in the country, in 2006 it was re-launched as Brasserie Blanc
1998 - Cheltenham
1999 - Birmingham (closed 2008)
2000 - Manchester
2004 - Tunbridge Wells (closed 2009)
2007 - Leeds and Milton Keynes
2008 - Bristol and Winchester
2009 - Portsmouth
2010 - Chichester and Threadneedle Street, London
2012 - Bath, Berkhamsted, St Albans and Chancery Lane,
St Paul’s and Tower Hill in London
In 2012 Blanc became the president of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
In March 2013, Raymond Blanc made the news with Mayor of London Boris Johnson, to publicise a scheme to get young people into the food and hospitality industry. Blanc took on twenty-one apprentices across the Brasserie Blanc Restaurants.
Blanc is one of the patrons of the Children's Food Festival, which was held on the Northmoor Trust Estate in south Oxfordshire in June 2009.
In 2014 he presented with Kate Humble Kew on a Plate, a 4-part television series, demonstrating the garden growth and preparation of several vegetable dishes.
Chefs trained by Blanc
Blanc has taught or employed many other future chefs and restaurateurs, including:
Marco Pierre White
Blanc has made numerous appearances on many major television stations, during prime time viewing, in the UK. These include his own series Food & Drink in 1987, Take Six Cooks in 1986 and Masterchef in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1998, as well as The Restaurant, a BBC 2 series hosted by Blanc where nine couples competed to win their own restaurant.
Blanc was a featured chef on Great Chefs television, appearing in Great Chefs of the World.
On 13 January 2007, he appeared on Saturday Kitchen. In the Omelette Challenge, he finished last because he took the longest to cook an omelette. However, he was nudged up a few places by James Martin, right above Ken Hom, as Blanc produced a black truffle out of his pocket and garnished the finished omelette with truffle shavings.
In summer 2007, a BBC promotion for his new reality TV programme The Restaurant was shown on UK television. (The show is known to BBC America viewers in the US as Last Restaurant Standing). The promo showed a group of well-dressed diners in a slow-motion food fight, to a Gonzales backing track. The show was part of BBC Two's autumn season in 2007 and returned, with minor changes to the format, in 2008. In 2009, The Restaurant returned to BBC Two in a low-budget format. This season was much criticised for the poor standard of contestants, for neglecting the successful elements of previous series, and for Blanc choosing as the winner a team without any discernible culinary ability outside of making cocktails..