Overall ranking: 39 (37)
Chef ranking: 7 (5)
Raymond Blanc – Snapshot
Raymond Blanc is chef-patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, an award-winning 32-bedroom country house hotel with a 100-seat two-Michelin-star restaurant and a cookery school for amateurs and professionals alike.
He is also a director of Blanc Brasseries Holdings (which owns the five-strong Le Petit Blanc chain he founded in 1996) and chef-director for the Diamond Club, the exclusive members club at Arsenal FC’s new Emirates Stadium.
Raymond Blanc – Career guide
Raymond Blanc, who was born in Besançon in France in 1949, first came to the UK as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant near Whitney in 1972. He opened his Le Quat’Saisons restaurant in Summertown, Oxford, in 1977, winning his first Michelin star in 1979 and his second in 1983.
In 1984 he moved to a 15th-century manor in Great Milton, reopening as a restaurant with rooms called Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. He added his L’Ecole de Cuisine in 1991 and teamed up with Virgin hotels the following year to expand the property into a 32-bedroom hotel. In 1996 he opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford.
Virgin bailed out in 2002, selling its majority stake in Le Manoir and its 50% holding in Le Petit Blanc to Orient-Express Hotels for £27.5m. The four-strong brasserie chain fell into administration in 2003, when it was snapped up by Loch Fyne Restaurants.
Raymond Blanc – What we think
Blanc has risen to the top despite being a self-taught chef with no formal training. His six books and numerous TV appearances (including his own Food and Drink series) have made him as popular with the public as with his peers, who voted him the most admired figure in the industry (with Sir Rocco Forte) in a 1999 Caterer & Hotelkeeper survey. Blanc was chosen as the AA Chef’s Chef in 2005, won a Craft Guild of Chef’s Special Award in 2003, and was the Catey Chef of the Year in 1990.
Le Manoir, one of just 23 UK members of Relais & Châteaux, is the only country house hotel in the UK to have held two Michelin stars for 23 years – although Blanc would like a third. It is an AA top 200 hotel, with four red stars and five rosettes.
But Blanc is most revered for his dedication to training – Marco Pierre White, Richard Neat, Paul Heathcote, John Burton-Race, Michael Caines and Eric Chavot are just some of the Michelin-starred chefs to have passed through his kitchens. In 1995 he set up the Raymond Blanc Scholarship to offer winning chefs aged 25 or more a two-year training programme.
Le Petit Blanc floundered because it was offering a Rolls Royce service at Rover prices. Loch Fyne extracted a small profit within a year after simplifying the menu and tightening up controls and systems, management, and overheads. In 2006, the directors of Loch Fyne Restaurants, in concert with Blanc, completed a £3m management buy-out of the five-strong chain, which is to be renamed Blanc Brasseries and operate independently of Loch Fyne.
The new company raised £6m to expand the chain to 20 sites by 2009, targeting mid-sized towns such as Cambridge, Bristol and Guildford.
Blanc has also worked as a consultant for Waitrose since 1994 and, until 1995, for Virgin Atlantic Airways and Marks & Spencer.
Although Blanc’s plans to open his first overseas restaurant at the Orient-Express Reid’s Palace in Madeira in late 2005 failed to materialise, he has kept busy with new ventures.
In 2006, he was hired as a consultant to help Delaware North UK run the exclusive 110-seat restaurant at Arsenal FC’s new Emirates Stadium for the 166 members of Arsenal’s Diamond Club.
Blanc has also teamed up with fruit expert William Sibley to extend the gardens at Le Manoir next year to incorporate a Provençale orchard and two further orchards that will resurrect 17 threatened Oxford apple varietals along with ancient plum and Williams pear varieties. In time, Le Manoir will be producing 10 tonnes of fruit a year to serve to guests or to sell.
Blanc’s estimated value of £7m put him in eighth place in the Independent’s 2006 list of Britain’s richest chefs.
Raymond Blanc – Further information
Brasserie Blanc official website >>