Rooted In Ex­cel­lence

The ut­most re­spect for na­ture and true gen­eros­ity serve as the pil­lars on which chef Ray­mond Blanc has ce­mented his legacy, dis­cov­ers Kissa Cas­tañeda

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Starter -

Ray­mond Blanc is a ball of pos­i­tive en­ergy. When we meet at his of­fice at Bel­mond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, the 69-year-old chef can’t stop flip­ping through books, of­fer­ing me freshly baked pas­tries and fruits, and re­gal­ing me with sto­ries as if it’s the first time he’s telling them. I quickly con­clude that his im­mense stay­ing power can be at­trib­uted to this—the man re­fuses to rest on his lau­rels and, frankly, just never stops.

That a self-taught chef has been able to reach the pin­na­cle of the culi­nary world and re­tain his stand­ing is achieve­ment enough, but for Blanc—who has been knighted in both France and the United King­dom— it’s the peo­ple he touches that mat­ter the most. That in­cludes the chefs he’s men­tored through­out the years, in­clud­ing the likes of Marco Pierre White and He­ston Blu­men­thal, as well as the many guests who have passed through the iron doors of Bel­mond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, whose gates, he shares, “are peren­ni­ally open”.

Many a gour­mand makes the pil­grim­age to stay, dine and study at the famed ho­tel-restau­rant in Ox­ford­shire. At the on-site cook­ery school, stu­dents learn first-hand the kitchen se­crets he has penned in his pop­u­lar cook­books; mean­while, the newly launched gar­den­ing school also re­veals a few tricks of the trade. Here, the chef shares what drives him and the evo­lu­tion of Bel­mond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, which cel­e­brates its 35th an­niver­sary in 2019.

What has been the great­est in­spi­ra­tion through­out your ca­reer?

My biggest in­spi­ra­tion has al­ways been my mother, Ma­man Blanc. From when I was a young boy, she made me un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of sea­son­al­ity, of fresh­ness and of the im­por­tance of the soil. She also taught me not to waste any­thing. I carry those val­ues into ev­ery­thing that I do.

How does your gar­den shape the way you cook and live?

At Bel­mond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, the gar­den dic­tates what is on the plate. My potager [kitchen-gar­den] and the sea­sons are a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion. In fact, even my web­site changes with the sea­sons. Hav­ing the gar­den has also em­pha­sised my com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity—and I’m glad this is be­ing taken more se­ri­ously ev­ery­where. I was one of the first chefs to re­move the use of plas­tic in the kitchen and the ho­tel was also one of the first to stop the use of parabens in our prod­ucts; we pro­duce our own clean sham­poo and soap for our guests to use. In the next phase, I fore­see that ve­g­an­ism will con­tinue to rise and the de­mand for an­i­mal pro­tein will de­crease.

Apart from your affin­ity with na­ture, what else do you ad­vo­cate for?

I feel strongly about re­shap­ing the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try and cre­at­ing a new model of work. Work­ing in hospi­tal­ity is hard and there aren’t enough peo­ple en­ter­ing the in­dus­try be­cause of just how tough it is. I al­ways strive to in­tro­duce work-life bal­ance in my or­gan­i­sa­tions and I’m also col­lab­o­rat­ing with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to help train peo­ple and sup­port the youth.

Your ho­tel-restau­rant is of­ten de­scribed as the epit­ome of lux­ury. What does lux­ury mean to you?

There’s a mael­strom of change af­fect­ing ev­ery facet of life to­day and I feel this has changed the way lux­ury is de­fined. Lux­ury is not solely about op­u­lence; it is about re­spon­si­bil­ity, thought­ful­ness and well-be­ing. The ex­pe­ri­ence of lux­ury should also feel ef­fort­less—and the only way to de­liver this is through hav­ing the right peo­ple and at­ti­tude.

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