12 Aug Jonathan Cartu Claims: Worldwise: Chef Raymond Blanc Shares His Favorite Things
After the temporary closing of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, U.K., due to Covid-19, Chef Raymond Blanc looked forward to “bringing the magic back” to his hotel and restaurant.
Set in a 15th-century manor in the village of Great Milton, the renowned Belmond property reopened its doors on July 14. “Le Manoir has been a house of joyous celebrations for 36 years,” he says. “It is the most loved house, but it only becomes a home when people are in it.”
A self-taught chef from Besancon, France, Blanc founded the property and its namesake restaurant in 1984. Since then, Le Manoir has grown from nine rooms to 32 rooms and suites, each uniquely curated to reflect Blanc’s travels. Earning two Michelin stars the first year and holding the distinction every year since, Le Manoir is the only hotel of its kind to celebrate such an honor for more than three decades.
As a champion of organic farming, Blanc, 70, also founded Le Manoir’s gardening school, where he recently debuted vegan masterclasses. The sessions focus on sustainability and zero-waste, as well as fresh offerings from the property’s two-acre vegetable garden. During the lockdown, the chef stayed connected to guests and fans while hosting virtual classes on his social channels and through Belmond Invitations, a series of online entertainment events brought to guests at home.
Still, Blanc admits that sheltering in place during Covid-19 was a challenge for him.
“It has been incredibly hard for me to be away from my family,” he says. “My wonderful mother suffered a fall earlier in the year, and sadly, she passed away. I was thankful for the lockdown to be lifted to enable me to be there in France for her funeral.”
“Maman Blanc,” as he endearingly refers to his mother, played a pivotal role in his choice to highlight seasonal, organic food in his cuisine, a decision that stems from his childhood. When his father gifted him a hand-drawn treasure map of the best spots to forage, fish, and hunt close to home, the aspiring chef would deliver ingredients to his mother in the kitchen where she taught him how to cook.
“I was raised on my mother’s philosophy of simple, rustic food, and the season always defined what was on the table,” he says.
Blanc shared with Penta several of his inspirations and favorite things.
What I miss most about pre-pandemic life is… I am a Frenchman. I miss greeting my friends with a hug.
While staying at home the past few months, I’ve been… so busy, with planning the reopening of all of my businesses, writing recipes for my new book, and making plans for a television program. I am now pretty good with my technology for the constant virtual meetings and calls. I have recorded a number of great little video podcasts and recipe items. While I have been pretty self-sufficient, I am glad to be back among the team.
As soon as it’s safe to travel, I want to go to… ah, the Maldives would be nice. But for now, I am thankful that we can travel and will visit my family and friends in France.
The best book I’ve read in the last year is… I have recently read a little book called Silk by Alessandro Baricco. Everyone should read it.
The one thing in my kitchen I can’t live without is… my Kenwood Chef Titanium Processor. I am cooking for myself more than ever now, and I could not be without it. Whether trying out a brand-new recipe or a traditional dish tried and tested by generations, the Titanium Chef helps to create dishes to the very highest standard. The heavyweight specification means you can even do away with the need for a separate bread mixer. This is a mixer that takes even the toughest tasks in stride.
The thing that gets me up in the morning is… my team at Le Manoir. They continue to inspire me every day with their enthusiasm, passion, and care.
My favorite thing to cook right now is… simply a salad of heritage tomatoes, beautifully seasoned, served with a chunk of sourdough bread. Voila!
A passion of mine that few people know about is… fishing. I like to fish at Haddon Hall in Bakewell where I can go dry fly fishing for wild trout. It’s the perfect way to relax and converse with my dearest friends.
The person who has inspired me to do what I do is… Maman Blanc. She was the driving force of my life—she gave me the vision for Le Manoir, the insight about people and life.
If we weren’t social distancing right now and I could grab a drink with anyone, anywhere, it would be… Robert Plant—a little rock ‘n’ roll after months of lockdown.