Shaper: Raymond Blanc

Show aired on 8th November 2014

Transcript of the show

Elliot Moss
That was Liquid Spirit from Gregory Porter, an energetic and punchy way to start the programme here on Jazz FM. Good morning it is me, Elliot Moss, and this is Jazz Shapers, the place that you can hear the very best of
the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business. My business shaper today is none other than the celebrated and respected and awarded chef, Monsieur Le Raymond Blanc. Raymond Blanc will be with me for the next hour and I can’t wait and you won’t be able to wait either. You will be salivating I promise all the way through the programme. In addition to hearing from Raymond, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that if it isn’t enough for a wonderful show, you will also be hearing some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul. Let’s get going with this from Etta James and I Love Paris.

The inimitable Etta James with I Love Paris. As I promised my business shaper today is Raymond Blanc, the celebrated chef, the man who has got restaurants, who is culinary advisor to some of the biggest businesses in the world, who has made his mark somewhat on the world of food and has been doing so for over four decades. It is an absolute honour to have you here, thank you so much for joining me.

Raymond Blanc
Thank you very much for inviting me. I really feel very happy, great music by the way. Great choice.

Elliot Moss
You like the music?

Raymond Blanc
I think so.

Ellliot Moss
Fantastic. Now Raymond you are in London briefly. You are obviously connected to Euro Star. Tell me a little bit, I am going to go through all sorts of things with you about where you began and stuff but right now you are here because very recently you have been doing some things with Champagne which are very clever. Tell me a little bit about that?

Raymond Blanc
Well you put together this amazing song, I love Paris and I do love Paris and I know millions of people love Paris. So much so that recently with Euro Star we created the biggest World Guinness Book of Record on the biggest tasting on the world seen forever. So imagine with eight hundred people tasting champagne at Euro Star and there were songs everywhere. There was jazz, there was rock and roll, there was music, everyone was singing. It was fantastic. Imagine seeing all these business guys going to Paris and having to test three glasses of champagne, you know by ten o’clock believe me it was amazing.

Elliot Moss
It made for much better meetings.

Raymond Blanc
And we won the world of champagne. We won the World Record.

Elliot Moss
Fantastic. Now this is obviously, look we are now here in your fourth decade as I said of being, of being Raymond Blanc. Many years ago when you first started in the business, you know people talk about Mammon Blanc, they talk about you as a child and your love of food and your love of drink and your love of all things that are good and you know, we joke about the French and their wonderful attitude towards life. If you cast your mind back way back then – the passion for food does not always necessarily translate into a businessman – into a person that actually wants to set up their own business, set up their own restaurant. Why do you think you wanted to as the young man? What was it special about you?

Raymond Blanc
Well one thing I didn’t want to be is to be mediocre – mediocrity scared me completely okay so I, when I, at first wanted to be a chef I sawn 13.42unclear restaurant and when I saw 13.46unclear hotel you know, it was like a ballet. You know, you see young waiters with their Bordeaux jackets, silver epaulets, serving the guests – it was beautiful, the crepes were being flambé’d, the cheese trolley being brought ceremoniously you know, in front of the guests and carved in front of the guests. I thought ‘that’s it, I want to be a chef’. But I was not a chef. I became first a cleaner but I became quickly the best cleaner in town. I remember there were some 18th century murals which I would clean with paper and vinegar until they shone. They were beautiful. Everything was shiny. So then after I became the best washer-up, then the best glass washer-up and then I became a waiter and then something went very wrong because I wanted to be a chef but basically so to arrive in the kitchens was a long journey and I told the chef his food was too acid, too rich, too much okay and I received a copper pan in my face. I was brought to hospital and actually eventually I arrived in England not like Napoleon would have wished on his beautiful white horse but very humbly but with burning, not ambition, burning desire to create something beautiful, to connect with food. So effectively I lost my job, I lost my goals but basically discovering England I knew it was a land of possibilities.

Elliot Moss
Find out much more from Raymond Blanc and all about his amazing attitude to simply being the best. Time for some more music; this is Duke Ellington and rather aptly, Taking The ‘A’ Train.

That was Duke Ellington and Take The ‘A’ Train. Raymond Blanc is my business shaper today and he is, if you didn’t know already, a rather well-known chef and has been unbelievably success for many many years. Raymond you were telling me earlier about where it began and the broken jaw, the broken ego. You come, you arrive on the shores of Britain not quite as you said, as Napoleon may have wanted but here you are in the mid-seventies and you have that burning desire. Many people listening will have a burning desire to do something and it remains that and then it often gets – doesn’t happen – it doesn’t happen quite the way they want it. How over those formative years before you open Le Manoir Cutter Season – how did it happen for you? Tell me about those early days?

Raymond Blanc
Well there as always nothing happen immediately and instantly. You have to learn certain things. I was a totally self-taught chef. The chef fell ill actually in this lovely pub called The Rose Revived and I entered the kitchen disguised as a chef and I remember all my life because I will show you my signature okay – I had bought the biggest hat I could find because I was so proud you know, to enter, I was 17.36unclear, I remember you know and I had a beautiful uniform; chef’s uniform okay and of course it was the seventies so I had long hair okay and I entered that kitchen and from the moment I talked I cooked. It was quite amazing and the customers very quickly know they were storming the kitchen. Who is that guy who is cooking? Because they came to see me and I remember my first cooking was on a very old Aga where I took about five o’clock in the morning to put the coal, light the coal and warm it. It was not like now with gas. So it was really extraordinary and from that moment I opened my kitchen, I opened my restaurant. Six months after I opened my first restaurant Le Quat’Saisons between the ladies underwear and Oxfam. So nothing to – in the worst possible time in Great Britain because you must remember such times when there was strikes everywhere, we were working three days a week, even the undertakers were striking – okay absolutely yes it was so bad okay and food was irrelevant. We had created a big factory in Great Britain and all the food was based on intensive farming, heavy processing, food had become mere commodity. So do you think Great Britain needed another French restaurant?

Elliot Moss
No.

Raymond Blanc
No exactly. That is the answer but I did. Okay so I remember I love my Quat’Saisons, that was my first time, with my wife Jenny we started okay and we had very little money, no business real experience, business experience. We had to learn the hard way and I can tell you I have eaten so many humble pies in my life and they were very useful. It is very useful because you need sometimes to falter in order to understand why.

Elliot Moss
And let me ask you, why do you think it worked because as you said, at that point there were huge economic problems. There was no food culture. Now in 2014 we talk about wonderful food in London and the rest of the country. That did not exist. Why did it happen? How did people latch on and think ‘this is how it should be’. You know I read about your attitude towards simple food, towards informality, towards you know just basically fantastic ingredients served up in beautiful ways. Very simply put. Why do you think it caught on?

Raymond Blanc
I think the food was, yes it was of simplicity because it was very much inspired by the simple philosophy of my mum which was based on purity and the ability of the ingredients was based on seasonality at all time, close to home. Okay it was always based on curiosity and that the curiosity factor I think is the most important. Anyone who would dared to be curious. Ask questions. You know constantly query something, look at the thing even though he has done it a thousand times, go into it to see it with freshness in his eyes. That child-like look inside that any mystery I think that person is likely to succeed. But mostly as well also brought a bit of your multi-cultural agriculture in my food so I had a cultural background of my mamma plus your multi-cultural background as well, that means there was Indian cuisine here. So I decided to take some spices from England, ginger, lemongrass okay but I am enriching my culture, not confusing it. Big difference okay. So I was not a trendy guy trying to do something extraordinarily trendy. No, no no. I knew who I was and I still know who I am okay but even more so now.

Elliot Moss
But you were confident?

Raymond Blanc
But I was a better French man through my food and from embracing as a culture as well, I made a type of French cuisine which was honest, which was light, exciting, sharp, fresh okay and people loved it. I think when people meet something and truly beautiful is they know it and I hope it doesn’t sound vain.

Elliot Moss
No, no, no.

Raymond Blanc
Okay. It came from my heart. It came so deep inside it was such a powerful expression of what I wanted to give my guests – the best. So first initially it is all about the guest. Then after of course you learn okay about the business side and you have to otherwise you will be out of business in no time. You have got to remember that in Great Britain or in France or anywhere else in the world, eighty percent of restaurants fail in the first year.

Elliot Moss
But yours didn’t and we are going to hold that story just there, just for a moment because what fantastic words, all the freshness, seeing things through fresh ideas and as you said right from the heart. That expression that couldn’t not come out. Latest travel is coming up in a couple of minutes but before that, some words of wisdom for your business, I hope you are listening. I hope you are listening to Raymond Blanc as well because you have heard some fantastic insight. This is some advice for your business though from our program partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning you can catch a brilliant one, if you have missed any iTunes is the place, put in the words Jazz and Shapers, you’ll find all of them there. My extraordinary business shaper today if you haven’t already been listening, is Raymond Blanc. He is an incredible man, full of passion, full of knowledge and full of the desire actually within his restaurant business and the books he has written and everything else, to share and this is what I want to talk to you about Raymond for a moment. You have, you know when you set up the restaurant and the hotel, you also eventually set up a cookery school, you have written since then as I mentioned, you present, you do all sorts of things. Some people just like doing the thing they do. To me, part of it seems to me that one of the things you do is to share what you know. What compels you to want to share so much and so consistently over the years?

Raymond Blanc
You are absolutely right. I love to pass on my knowledge. I love and because I am so self-taught it was tough to where I am because you had to take so many falls, you had to get up, you could dust yourself up and learn what you’ve done wrong whether it was a business organisation, a business of finance, or training, there is so much to learn. When you run a restaurant there is millions of aspects which you’ve got to be the best plumber, the best engineer, you become you know, washer-up, you are a cleaner, you are a trainer, you are a philosopher, you know you are involved in so many aspects which you are not prepared for. So it really was quite of an extraordinary challenge but in my head was not only did I want to pass on my knowledge, I think we have succeeded to some degree because again today just a few days ago I was so happy. Out of the twelve young people, best national – in your nation – best chefs, young chefs. Three came from Le Manoir. Three and they have finished number one, number two and number three and that for me, it is not about egos it is about thanking my wonderful chef guy, Jules, my wonderful other chef, Ben Blair. All my marvellous 26.15unclear and female 26.16unclear will raise that vision so much it has become their vision, it is not my vision anymore. That is why I am winning because I have been able to give them this 26.29unclear so to speak and then for them to own it. When you have someone who owns your vision, your ideas, that becomes so then you are much richer. You are the worst off when you don’t share it. And equally I wanted to create an industry which was modern. A modern industry. We are in great need of creating a modern, we are an industry which is at least modern in so much we – what I want to say – for many years to be a chef you have to have a frontal lobotomy, you to be a social outcasts and a kind of big failure. It was where the bottom feeders were, the servants so to speak. Whereas – and it is a tough place – you work twelve, fourteen, fifteen hours a day and I want to stop that. I really want to create a modern industry you know which young people will come, they will not be threatened, they will be not shouted at, they will not be humiliated but create a work environment which is all about teaching, preparing somebody, a young person to grow safely and mature into a great professional who is going to be one of the greatest 27.53unclear okay and success in their life because that is what we are trying to do. And I think we are succeeding. It is not perfect but we are succeeding to some degree and training is a core value of what we do at the Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons. Definitely it is the core value. It is the heart of it. Passing on ones’ knowledge. And as soon as I teach you how to peel a carrot or how to do a proper project management on a project you have to pass on that knowledge. You have the duty to pass it on to somebody else and you will want to because that makes you feel richer, that teach you to be a teacher and you enrich somebody else’s life. It is all positive so I would like to create a modern industry where young people, parents will want to send their children to our amazing industry and at the moment they still don’t. We are an industry which has got the most highlights in term of television time on cooking and yet young people don’t want to come into the industry because I think as teachers, as trainers we are not good enough. I want to create an environment which is that good.

Elliot Moss
And yet what you say is so absolutely right. Whatever business you are in, help people enrich their own lives and the next people will come into it and change the industry. Fantastic words. Time for some music though, it has got to be some more music and I think you like this one, this is James Brown and Sex Machine.

Raymond Blanc is my business shaper and he likes James Brown and he particularly likes that track as well. That was Sex Machine of course. Raymond your vision of what a sharing business environment should be like is absolutely right, your vision of how you want your own industry to change is absolutely right. You are a full-on guy, meeting in this short time, there is energy, there’s ideas. How do you ever not think about that? Do you get time to relax? Do you find a space and if so, how do you do it? Because people listening will go ‘wow I want to be the best, I want to have that’ but can you do all that? Can you still be kind of calm at times as well? Where does that come from?

Raymond Blanc
First I have a great problem in saying no and actually I met just a few days ago, a lovely friend of mine which I consider a guru, a truly wise man okay and he told me ‘Raymond you have to learn to say no’ and it is true he was so right because I don’t know how to say no because everything interests me. You know, I will be interested you know on that space you have created here, why do you put those speakers here? So I am constantly have this child-like curiosity which I still have in me but mostly I love my world. I love my world of food but not just my food because all my little 32.50unclear is for you, no food is about people, it is about business, it is about finance, it is about success, it is about choice, about celebration. It is about holding your lovers hand or being with your family at the table. Food is so much more than that, it is about environment. It is about psychology, it’s about – so food touch everything and I am so lucky to live in that thing so I have got to learn eventually to say no. That is my task.

Elliot Moss
Raymond Blanc will be with me just for a few more minutes and I would urge you to stay and listen with me because you will be hearing some more brilliant words from him. We will also be playing a track from Jamie Cullum, that’s coming up next here on Jazz FM.

Twenty Something from Jamie Cullum here on Jazz FM, Jazz Shapers with me Elliot Moss. Raymond Blanc has been with me and in fact Raymond you were telling me earlier you played or rather you cooked and he played in a special few evenings.

Raymond Blanc
Yes put it in the right order, I was cooking, he was playing. It was amazing, it was 35.56 unclear event, it was absolutely amazing to work with him and we had the most glorious moment. We ran three evenings, it was fantastic.

Elliot Moss
Do you identify with other people like that who are absolutely at the top of what they do?

Raymond Blanc
Oh yes.

Elliot Moss
And what is it? Is it because they have that passion, that desire for excellence? What is it?

Raymond Blanc
Yes it is about excellence, it is about somebody who is trying to catch his best okay. Although it is in the world of painting, the world of cooking or the world of books or literature, music, radio – the best is the best. That is why classics exit thank God. There is something marvellous. When you hear that old James Brown music, that music is going to be forever there.

Elliot Moss
I am also aware that the Government when you first started Le Manor Quat’Saisons actually invested a lot of money in you and generally when people think about what role Government can play in helping businesses, people have different experiences. What would you love Government to do for young people listening, burgeoning chefs, burgeoning anything, burgeoning creative people who want to set up their own thing. What would you love them to actually offer those young people?

Raymond Blanc
First of all what they given me was quite incredible. I was starting my business and I would never have started it without the help of the Government. It just happened. It was maybe a bit of luck. They did 38.40 Unclear and our Government did a business expansion scheme which allowed people who were paying basically seventy or eighty percent tax to invest in a restaurant tax free and then create a business and that was a fantastic, fantastic, fantastic thing that the Government did which helped society at large, the creation of new businesses because England was really at the time, if France is in a hole, we were in an abyss at that time, so to create that initiative created thousands of businesses and I was one of them. So the Government helped me further. When I realised in creating the Le Manoir I realise I had a big problem. I was lacking because there was dry rot, wet rot, there was all sorts of real problem of a big house which had so many ills. Okay so I wanted development and the Ministry to us they would grant and and we managed to get a grant. Proof and my deal and problem to them is that I said I would train young British people, that we would create one of the most beautiful place in Great Britain where thousands of tourists will come and they believed me and they gave me I think about two hundred thousand pounds which is worth about now what two millions?

Elliot Moss
So you would say to Government please help get aid to businesses.

Raymond Blanc
Help businesses. I think the major size businesses have not been helped as they should have been. Neither by banks and nor by Government, not as much as they should be.

Elliot Moss
Fantastic stuff and just before I let you go and it has been an absolute pleasure and an honour Monsieur Raymond Blanc. What is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Raymond Blanc
Well its an old love affair. The first time I heard Jacques Loussier it was at a Festival of Music at 42.11unclear which I travel every year. I invited his group and the piece that I am going to make you listen is extraordinary because he is very much inspired by Bach but it translate Barr, okay another great, great classical composers into jazz and I think it is completely sumptuous.

Elliot Moss
This is your choice, it’s from Jacques Loussier and it is Air On A G String. Thank you so much for being my business shaper today.

Raymond Blanc
Thank you sir.

Elliot Moss
That was Air On A G String from Jacques Loussier, the song choice of my extraordinary business shaper today, Raymond Blanc. Unbelievable focus on standards, a belief in the importance of education and a real vision for the future based on super strong values right from his birth. Fantastic stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place – that’s 9.00am next Saturday morning here on Jazz FM for another edition of Jazz Shapers. In the meantime though stay with us because coming up next, it’s Nigel Williams.

Raymond’s cooking has received tributes from every national and international guide to culinary excellence there is. His story began Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, where Raymond was born. He was inspired by his mother, who used created wholesome meals for the family.

In 1972, Raymond arrived in England to work as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant in Oxfordshire. One day, when the chef was ill, Raymond took over the kitchen, which is when his career was born.

Raymond has since opened Michelin star restaurants and in 1991 he established The Raymond Blanc Cookery School to share his culinary knowledge.  Based within Le Manoir’s kitchens, the school welcomes enthusiastic amateurs and professional cooks, as well as children, providing the opportunity for home cooks to develop their skills in a relaxed and friendly environment.

In 1996, Raymond opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie. In 2006 the group was re-launched as Brasserie Blanc and there are now some 20 restaurants across England.  In 2008, Raymond was awarded an honorary OBE in recognition of his services in promoting culinary excellence and for raising awareness about the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life. In 2013 he was awarded the insignia of Chevalier in the ordre national de La Légion d’Honneur, the highest French decoration.

Raymond has championed and personally nurtured some of the country’s most respected chefs, including Marco Pierre White, Michael Caines, Bruno Loubet, Eric Chavot and Ollie Dabbous. Some 26 of his protégées have gone on to win Michelin stars for themselves. In 2005 he was voted AA’s Chefs’ Chef of the Year.

Follow Raymond on Twitter @raymond_blanc

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

One thing I didn’t want to be was mediocre.

I became the best cleaner, then the best washer-up, then the best glass washer up, then the best waiter. But I wanted to be a chef.

I arrived in England with a burning desire to create something beautiful, to connect with food. I knew England was a land of possibilities.

We had to learn the hard way. I have eaten so many humble pies in my life and they were very useful.

I took some spices from England, but I am enriching my culture, not confusing it. There is a big difference. I was not trying to do something trendy – I knew who I was and I still know who I am.

I made a French cuisine which was honest. It came from my heart. It was such a powerful expression of what I wanted to give my guests –the best.

I love to pass on my knowledge. When you have someone who owns your vision and your ideas, you become much richer. You are worse off if you don’t share it.

I want to create a modern industry for young people– they will not be threatened or shouted at or humiliated. It will be about preparing people to grow safely and mature into great professionals.

I don’t know how to say no and everything interests me. I constantly have this childlike curiosity.

We are the nation of wasters, the nation of polluters, so we have to change. We are going to connect with the real values of food, back to waste management, recycling and water security. We are all going to get more responsible.