Everybody loves Raymond
When the world went into lockdown in 2021, suddenly everything changed, and Raymond, like the rest of the world, struggled to find a way through. At home, and isolated from his family - as well as his army of chefs at the world-renowned two-star Michelin restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and his Brasserie Blanc restaurants - Raymond cooked and cooked.
He opted for the simple dishes that evoked the happy memories, provided the connection to those he could not be with. He focused on recipes that were neither a challenge nor fussy. They required ingredients that were easily-available and needed only basic kitchen equipment. The result is Simply Raymond. It is a collection of his favourite home-cooked recipes - the dishes that mean the most to him; the ones that connect family and friends, and dishes that took him on stove-side travels to other parts of the world.
There is also a profound poignancy to this book. Shortly before Raymond finished writing it, his mother sadly passed away. This book is a heartfelt tribute to her, created with passion and thoughtfulness. It is also a testament to the great pleasure derived from stepping into a kitchen, simply to cook simply for others - something he has done all his life.
Can you tell us a little about Besançon, where you grew up in eastern France? What dishes you grew up with and what were the typical ingredients used?
My cooking is very much inspired by my Maman, at home and in my restaurants - she is my hero and where my inspiration for my cooking came from. We were working class, but we ate like kings. She taught me all about not wasting food, the importance of seasonality and generosity so I make it simple, delicious and seasonal.
We used to eat everything from the countryside when I was growing up – wild mushrooms, rabbit, duck – as a boy I would collect fresh produce from the garden and forage further afield with a map of my father’s then watch Maman go to work creating family meals, full of flavour and so full of love. I also love making snails bourguignon and Mediterranean fish soup. I grew up eating these delicacies in France. The smells and textures of each dish evoke strong childhood memories. For dessert, it has to be Maman’s simple and delicious apple tart.
What are your early memories of food and how has this shaped your ethos and cooking style?
It has to be watching Maman beavering away in the kitchen. She taught me to follow the rhythm of the seasons and make the most of the delicious produce available to me and also to enrich someone else’s life by passing on your own knowledge to the young.
How would you best sum up French cuisine?
It’s all about richness, combination of ingredients and flavours, but most of all I think it is the whole experience of sitting down at the table with family and a big hearty bowl of beef bourguignon. It’s very comforting.
I think the British have very much embraced French food to the point that it is part of everyday life for many people. How often do you enjoy croissants or pain au chocolat at breakfast or a freshly baked baguette at lunch? The British have embraced so many different styles of cuisine from across the world and, in a lot of ways, taken it to a new level. It makes the future of food in this country very exciting to me and it is wonderful to be part of that.
When you first came to England over 40 years ago, how was the standard of cooking and what changes have you noticed in the way we eat or celebrate food?
When I came to Great Britain in 1972 England was a very different place, food was of total irrelevance. Now there’s a true awakening of what represents good food. The consumer is much more knowledgeable and aware. They ask more questions: what’s in the food, where does it come from?
Great Britain has moved on in the culinary world so much and it’s exciting. British chefs are now mature and have a true connection with gastronomy. They connect with their region, their heritage, their history.
"As a boy I would collect fresh produce from the garden and forage further afield with a map of my father’s then watch Maman go to work creating family meals, full of flavour and so full of love"
Are there any funny/Interesting stories you can tell us about your travels?
I did find myself in some trouble when I was bartering over some king prawns in a market in Morocco - what I thought was some friendly banter suddenly escalated and the market trader threatened violence if I continued to try and get a better price. I thought I was doing well with my bartering, but it turns out I had taken things a step too far!
You have travelled extensively experiencing different cuisines from around the world. Do you prefer travelling or do you still prefer being in the kitchen?
My experiences travelling have really helped to craft the menus at Brasserie Blanc. From the lamb tagine in Morocco to the summer rolls in South-East Asia, I have been lucky enough to discover amazing tastes from around the world, which I have brought back, re-created and introduced on the new menu.
The grilled cod with lemon and squid ink risotto was inspired by my recent trip to Venice where I visited the Rialto Fish Market most mornings to soak up the atmosphere and see what’s come in fresh of the boats. The inspiration for the preserved lemon cod is a combination of these visits to Venice and also my love of North African food where preserved lemon is a widely used ingredient. Of course, it is always great to come back to the kitchen to see these dishes enjoyed by our customers.
And so the book is dedicated to your Maman.
While I was writing my little book, Simply Raymond, my mother passed away. This book is dedicated with the utmost love to Maman Blanc. My inspiration to become a chef, restaurateur and hotelier stems from my mother’s desire and compulsion to give, share and, of course, to feed a family of seven. She was a muse to me, shaping my approach to food and people. Her values formed the foundations of my cooking and career. She has brought happiness to so many, in the kitchen and at the table. Maman, your life was long, your loss is great. Your legacy, however, is immense
SIMPLY RAYMOND: Recipes from Home by Raymond Blanc
Official companion to the ITV series Simply Raymond Blanc
Out now in Hardback - £25.00. Published by Headline Home
a copy of SIMPLY RAYMOND: Recipes from Home by Raymond Blanc. For a chance to win the book, simply fill in the form and send it off to us. Good luck!