Excellence Connoisseur: Raymond Blanc OBE

We recently spent an inspirational day with one of our newest Excellence Connoisseurs, the renowned and celebrated 2 Michelin star chef Raymond Blanc OBE. Raymond is Chef Patron of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons - a sublime country retreat that provides breath-taking surroundings and gastronomic excellence and where Oxfordshire heritage meets French flair. We were thrilled to spend time with him, discussing his culinary passions, beautiful gardens and his key sources of inspiration. ‘’I take inspiration from all around…” Raymond commented. “from my own curiosity, from my extensive travels, from different cultures, but most of all, from my own gardens and family traditions! Food and family are completely entwined because they are the very essence of my heritage of celebrating and appreciating food.’’ One of the most sought-after chefs in the world, Raymond Blanc was born in Eastern France and is completely self-taught. His influence on gastronomy has been so great that he is the only chef to have been honoured with both an OBE from Britain and a Legion d’honneur, the equivalent of a knighthood, from France. To this day, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is still the only country house hotel in Britain to have retained two Michelin stars for over 30 years.  Its 12 stunning gardens – including the vast organic kitchen garden - are the envy of gardeners and chefs around the world and have become part of the very inspiration from which the culinary Maestro’s incredible dishes are born.  ‘’There are 12 gardens at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons …” Raymond enthused, ‘but my favourite of all is the enchanting Potager. With over 150 varieties of heritage and organic vegetables, each variety creates something magical and continues to enrich every one of my dishes with its freshness, flavour and texture! My garden is truly the canvas from which I take all of these incredible textures and flavours, wonderful vegetables and herbs, and transform them into my cuisine and into some of the most memorable dishes.'' When asked which season was Raymond’s favourite, he was keen to tell us: ''My favourite season is Spring….to tear the first asparagus and sweet peas is both exhilarating and delicious!  Spring to me is about those wonderful, tender green flavours, about the colours bursting from the frozen grounds, the first radish… it's all so exquisite and flavourful! As a self-taught chef, Raymond has always enjoyed passing-on his culinary knowledge, so in 1991 he established The Raymond Blanc Cookery School and, in 2017, The Raymond Blanc Gardening School – attracting keen home chefs and gardeners worldwide. Raymond is also a Creative and Culinary Director to Jardin Blanc – a stunning private garden hospitality and dining space within the acclaimed RHS Chelsea Flower Show and a Culinary Consultant to Ascot Racecourse, hosting spectacular restaurant experiences across Royal Ascot and other race dates. For more information about Raymond Blanc or to book at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons visit their website: www.belmond.com