Tatler Takes 5: Raymond Blanc
Knighted for his contribution to the culinary world, Knighted for his contribution to the culinary world, the chef shares some of his discoveries and what drives evolution at his Oxfordshire hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which marks its 35th anniversary next year
At Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, it is the garden that dictates what is on the plate. My potager (kitchen garden) and the seasons are a constant source of inspiration. Even my website changes with the seasons. There are so many gardens that I love but, as a Frenchman, I must say those of the Château de Versailles are my favourite. It used to be the royal residence before the French Revolution, which makes the setting of these gardens truly magnificent. I could spend forever there and be very happy.
I am a self-taught chef and my biggest inspiration has always been my mother, Maman Blanc. From when I was a young boy, she made me understand the importance of seasonality, of freshness and the importance of the soil. She also taught me not to waste anything. I carry those values into everything I do.
One of my latest finds is the Agata potato, which I encountered in the South of France when treating Maman Blanc to a fantastic meal. We ate a heavenly bouillabaisse that featured this potato. I could not leave the restaurant without knowing its name. A Dutch variety, it has yellow skin and flesh, matures early and has a high yield. I’m now growing it in my potager.
Steak Maman Blanc
A recipe that everyone should learn, it’s quick, simple and delicious. My mother has cooked steak this way ever since I was young, and I genuinely think it is the best method there is. It relies on one very simple process: pan-frying meat to create delicious juices, which can then be turned into an emulsion by adding water. The same technique works just as well with pan-frying other meats, too.
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The hospitality industry is tough and takes a toll on your body. To regain my balance, I go to Chiva-som. I’ve been at least 10 times. It is a complete retreat that feels like a little world. You are in this sphere of calm with the best teachers, food and nature. I literally switch off (you have to leave your phone behind) and reset.