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Raymond Blanc

12 May 2005
Raymond Blanc

Overall ranking: 37

Chef ranking: 5

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 restaurant and a cookery school for amateurs and professionals alike. Blanc also holds a 25% stake in Le Petit Blanc, a chain of five brasseries.

Career guide

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.

Blanc teamed up with Virgin Hotels in 1992 to expand the property into a 32-bedroom hotel. In 1996 he opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford, which won a Michelin star in its first year.

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.

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.

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.

Blanc has also worked as a consultant for Waitrose since 1994 and, until 1995, for Virgin Atlantic Airways and Marks & Spencer.

Towards the end of 2005, he will open his first overseas restaurant at Orient-Express Hotels' Reid's Palace in Madeira.

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