Meet the Chef: Raymond Blanc
One of the world’s most respected chefs, Raymond Blanc is totally self-taught. His story begins in Besançon in eastern France, where Raymond was born. He was inspired by the local terroir, and most of all by his mother, the formidable Maman Blanc who used fresh, local and seasonal produce to create wholesome meals for the family.
Raymond arrived in England in the summer of 1972, to work as a waiter. One day, when the chef was ill, Raymond took over the kitchen and his future career was born.
In 1977, he opened his first restaurant, Les Quat’Saisons in Summertown, Oxford. It was an overnight success, winning Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year, and two prestigious Michelin stars within a couple of years. It was in 1984, however, that Raymond fulfilled a personal vision, creating a hotel and restaurant in harmony when he opened Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. It is the only UK country house hotel to have retained two Michelin stars for the past 30 years.
In 1996, Raymond opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford. More brasseries followed. In 2006 the group was re-launched as Brasserie Blanc and there are now 20 restaurants across England, the newest having just opened in Hale Barns at the newly refurbished Manchester Airport Mariott Hotel. The brasseries offer French classics and modern dishes, all made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Raymond passionately believes in sourcing food with care from some of the best producers and farmers in the country, for dishes freshly prepared by Brasserie Blanc’s wonderful chefs. Each Braserie Blanc is a place to relax, and enjoy real French food, close to home at affordable prices.
Raymond has championed and nurtured some of the country’s most respected chefs in his kitchens, including Marco Pierre White, Michael Caines, Bruno Loubet, Eric Chavot, Ollie Dabbous and Brasserie Blanc’s own Clive Fretwell. Having worked together for more than 20 years, Raymond mentored Clive from the beginning of his career at Le Manoir with Clive eventually being appointed as Executive Chef at Brasserie Blanc. Clive and Raymond continue to work closely together developing seasonal menus full of the freshest ingredients for which Brasserie Blanc is well-known.
In 2008, he was awarded an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen, 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 Légion d’Honneur, the highest French decoration.
The recipe for King Prawns with Chermoula Dressing has been created for The Cheshire Magazine by the chef team at the gorgeous new Brasserie Blanc in Hale Barns that serves delicious home- cooked French food with a contemporary international flavour inspired by Raymond’s travels. Open from 6.30am for breakfast right through to late evening with a showstopping outdoor terrace, Brasserie Blanc brings a slice of rural France to Hale Barns.
King Prawns with Chermoula Dressing
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Belazu chermoula dressing
12-16 raw king prawns, peeled with heads attached
1 tbsp Olive oil
2 Lemons halved
250g black venus rice, cooked according to packet instructions
Large handful frozen peas, cooked
Large handful frozen broad beans, cooked
100g French beans, trimmed and cooked
Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat. To make the marinade, mix the olive oil and chermoula together with a pinch of salt and thoroughly coat the prawns with the mixture. Place on a roasting tray and grill for around 5 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked, turning halfway through.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan cut-side down and fry for 30 secs-1 min, or until lightly caramelized.
Divide the rice amongst four plates and scatter over the vegetables. Top with the prawns and drizzle over the leftover cooking juices. Place half a lemon on each plate and serve immediately.