Breaking Bread with Raymond Blanc OBE

Bre Graham

Breaking Bread with Raymond Blanc OBE

Chef Raymond Blanc, wearing glasses and chef whites, lies back on the grass with his arms behind his head, seen from above.

When Raymond Blanc found the historic manor house that would become Le Manoir, he said it was ‘love at first sight’. Forty years on, we spent the day reminiscing with Raymond about his vision for Le Manoir and his culinary inspirations.

Breaking Bread

Raymond Blanc OBE

Chef Raymond Blanc, right, works with a chef, in a blue apron, in the kitchen, adding finishing touches to dishes by hand.
0 minutes 46 seconds

How did you start working in food?

“I'm an unusual chef because I'm totally self-taught and I never had a minute training under another chef. I started in restaurants as a cleaner, then as a washer-up before becoming a waiter. Then I decided to travel to the UK in 1977 because I wanted to be a chef. I loved the idea of opera for the few and rock and roll for the many here in the UK, it was a changing country and I fell in love with food.”

How did you first find the house that would become Le Manoir?

“On a Sunday morning, I was reading a magazine called Country Life and I saw this house advertised in it for sale called Le Manoir. It was an old manor house in Oxfordshire and it connected with me. So, I took my little car and made my way there that same morning. When I arrived at the rusty gates and saw it, I fell in love — completely and utterly in love. It was an old house which had needed to be better kept, but the gardens were all uneven and beautiful. Sadly I had no money because I was just a young chef but sometimes luck is on your side. When I knocked on the door, a lady came out and I told her I wanted to buy her house. She looked at me, she looked at my battered Vauxhall car and said, ‘but who are you?’. I told her my name was Raymond Blanc and when I said that she said, ‘Monsieur Blanc, of course, I want to sell you my house for two reasons. I came to your little restaurant and it was unbelievable. The kindness, the beauty of the food, you made my family so happy. The second reason is that if I don't sell this house to you, it will be separated into flats and that would kill me.’ She helped me to buy this house and within a year, we had transformed it”.

In 1984 what was your dream for Le Manoir?

“The vision was to create something extraordinary. I wanted it to be full of joy, full of laughter, where food and friendships are the very heart of things. My dream was a small house with a huge garden, dreams never happen the way you dream them but this one did. I wanted effectively to create a beautiful restaurant and a hotel in total harmony, which will offer to our guests, the most extraordinary food, garden, and experiences. Now we have 32 bedrooms, and 14 gardens, amongst them a 2,500-tree orchard, a wild mushroom valley, a bee village, an extraordinary potager with 170 vegetable varieties, a Japanese garden, a water garden and a herb garden. It's a heavenly place. The garden is a canvas on which I form my gastronomy and that gastronomy is based on what my mom taught me, seasonality. Seasonality defines everything we do here.”

Find out more about the last forty years of Le Manoir with the latest episode from our Breaking Bread series with Raymond Blanc OBE - watch the full film on Belmond’s YouTube channel.

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