One of the UK’s most respected chefs, Raymond Blanc was born in a tiny rural village near Besançon, in eastern France. His two greatest inspirations were the terroir of the Franche-Comté region, between Burgundy and the Jura mountains, and his mother, the formidable Maman Blanc, who lovingly created family meals bursting with fresh, local and seasonal flavours.
Raymond’s culinary career began as a waiter in Oxfordshire, England, at the Rose Revived Restaurant. One day, when the chef was ill, Raymond took over and the rest, as they say, is history. He and his wife Jenny opened their first restaurant, Les Quat’Saisons, in Oxford in 1977. An overnight success, it won Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year.
A Dream Fulfilled
The key date, however, was 1984, when Raymond fulfilled his dream of opening a hotel and restaurant that would combine sumptuous surroundings with gastronomic excellence.
"I had in mind a small house in the country, but I fell in love with a much grander house: Great Milton Manor, set in 30 acres. With the help of a few friends—and what friends!—it was transformed into a magnificent country house hotel: Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons."
A Haven of Tranquility
Raymond’s intention was to create a haven of tranquility, a place where guests could come to relax, enjoy the extraordinary cuisine and savour the surroundings with a sense of joy and wonder. Working with some of the best interior designers in the UK—including Emily Todhunter, Michael Priest and Trevillion—he transformed the rooms into stylish, contemporary palaces, each with its own individual theme or personality. The restaurant swiftly earned two Michelin stars, which it has held for a staggering 28 years. The pretty grounds and extensive vegetable and herb gardens, which fuel Raymond’s passion for seasonal, organic produce, are the envy of gardeners worldwide, and the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, established in 1991, attracts a constant stream of budding chefs of all ages and levels of expertise.
A Passion for Seasonality
Known globally for his passion for seasonal, organic produce, Raymond was talking about sustainability two decades ago, long before it was all the rage. When sourcing food for his restaurant, he makes sure he knows everything about its provenance, so, for example, he can tell you exactly which cows provided the milk for your breakfast. With his dedicated gardeners, he has cultivated herb beds in which 70 varieties, including exotics such as Vietnamese mint or lemongrass, thrive, a two-acre vegetable garden producing over 90 types of vegetable, a mushroom garden with around 20 edible species, and an orchard. He champions an ethical approach to cooking and is devoted to energy efficiency and recycling. Le Manoir is viewed by many in the hotel and restaurant industry as the model to aspire to.