Raymond Blanc – the man behind the myth
As Anglofiles go, few are more passionate or committed than the inimitable Raymond Blanc. Well, I say inimitable, in actuality it’s all too easy to do a more than passable impersonation of his heavily accented English – just think Rene off ‘Allo ‘Allo.
That said, he has been a real force for good in the English food industry and has been pivotal in helping spread the foody revolution over the last couple of decades. I saw him recently on BBC TV’s Kitchen Secrets and he was extolling the virtues of one of his – and mine – favourite patisseries in the third arrondissement in Paris.
To hear him talk, even to an ex-colleague who he’d helped train, it was as though he’d never tasted cakes before – such was his still un-dimmed passion.
As I said before, he really is a good man, although I am reminded of one of our first meetings a few years ago when I organised a prestigious restaurant awards evening at Manchester’s 5 Star Lowry Hotel. As one of our premier guests for the evening, Raymond was booked to stay the night at the hotel, so it was with some surprise when I was called by the concierge to tell me that Monsieur Blanc was asking for a taxi to be called to take him to the event. I quickly went down to reception to explain the situation and introduce him to my wife, Korser, who I had delegated to be his minder for the evening.
The evening went swimmingly, he was Gallic charm on a stick and enraptured everyone with his typically witty – some might say rambling – speech, after which the Puligny Montrachet flowed and a good evening was had by all.
Korser, following her orders to the letter, had barely left Raymond’s side for the whole evening ensuring he was well lubricated and that he was enjoying the evening. Accompanying him to their fourth or fifth frenetic dance number, she was surprised when he leant across to her and said “I’ve had a lovely evening, but, who exactly are you?”
Korser, patiently explained and comprehension seemed complete. That is until around 2 o clock when she took eye off him for 5 minutes. Shortly after this I got another phone call on my mobile from John the concierge.
“Monsieur Blanc is down at reception again asking me to order him a taxi back to his hotel”.
Which only goes to show, I suppose, that just because you know where to sniff out the best Perigord truffles doesn’t mean you’re necessarily as gifted where your own whereabouts are concerned.