Overall ranking: 15 (10 in 2012)
Chef ranking: 5 (3 in 2012)
Raymond Blanc is the chef-patron of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, the award-winning, 32-bedroom country house hotel with a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and a cookery school for amateurs and professionals. He is also a director of Brasserie Bar Co, a well-known television chef, chef-director of the Diamond Club at the Emirates Stadium, and in 2012 was named culinary director at Eurostar. His restaurant serves organic produce grown in the hotel's gardens and he was appointed the first president of the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2012. Among other charitable projects, he and his team work with two schools under the Chefs Adopt A School programme.
What we think
While a third Michelin star has been elusive, it is remarkable that this self-taught chef has held two stars for 34 years, underlining his leadership in maintaining a consistent and talented brigade.
Born in France in 1949, Blanc came to the UK as a waiter in 1972. He opened his Les Quat'Saisons restaurant in Summertown, Oxford, in 1977, winning his first Michelin star in 1979 and his second in 1983.
In 1984 he moved the business to the 15th-century manor in Great Milton, reopening as a restaurant with rooms called Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. He added a cookery school, L'Ecole de Cuisine, in 1991. By 1994, it had attracted the attention of Virgin Hotels, which took a 50% stake, enabling Blanc to expand the property into a 32-bedroom hotel. In 2002, Virgin sold its stake to Orient-Express Hotels for £27.5m. The Belmond name was added when Orient-Express Hotels was rebranded in 2014.
Blanc has thrived through business partnerships. In 1996, he opened his first Le Petit Blanc brasserie in Oxford, scooping a Michelin star. When the four-strong chain fell into administration in 2003, it was rescued by Loch Fyne Restaurants, which completed a buyout for £3m and renamed it Brasserie Blanc. Now operating as the Brasserie Bar Co, the chain has 20 sites, while sister group, the White Brasserie Co, has 17 pubs.
Blanc was made an OBE in 2008 for promoting culinary excellence and raising awareness of the importance of healthy food, and picked up a Lifetime Achievement award at the Cateys in 2009, 19 years after winning the Chef Catey; he has collected the same award from both the AA and Hotelympia. In 2013, he was presented with the insignia of chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, the highest French decoration.
His influence has been strengthened by numerous TV appearances, including as the host of BBC's The Restaurant, which made him a household name. Blanc has also written 11 books. In The Caterer's 2017 Hoteliers' Hotels Top 100 list, Le Manoir was voted number one by the UK's leading hoteliers. That same year, Blanc was inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame.
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