Chef Raymond fills in the Blancs

In his latest BBC Two programme, Raymond Blanc shows viewers how to perfect everyday techniques. But with exploding crepes and angry chefs to discuss, Keeley Bolger has little time for the basics when she meets him for a cooking masterclass

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 7th July 2013, 11:00 am
Raymond Blanc on the set of How to Cook Well
Raymond Blanc on the set of How to Cook Well

“Ooh la la, look at this!” cries Raymond Blanc as he catches a glimpse of his face flickering on screen. And then it abruptly disappears as a technical gremlin strikes.

There’s a cordial hush from the assorted journalists who’ve assembled at his Oxfordshire restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, to watch the preview of Blanc’s new BBC Two cookery programme, How To Cook Well.

Determined there will be no awkward silence while an assistant tinkers with the telly, the self-taught Blanc leaps up and talks at length about seasonal produce.

It’s a while before his producer can find an appropriate lull in conversation to usher Blanc to the back of the room ready for the programme to resume.

“Ooh la la, did you hear it crunch?” says Blanc as his on-screen self breaks a duck leg. We politely nod in agreement and turn back, just in time to see the chef expertly chop up a bundle of vegetables.

The series is intended to guide viewers through basic cooking techniques, including grilling, poaching, roasting, slow cooking, frying and barbecuing, and the aim today is for us to learn some of the techniques from the man himself.

With time of the essence, it’s not long before Blanc’s on his feet again, buzzing around in front of the TV and lunging at guests, asking if they like peas, in his treacle-thick French accent.

Once he ascertains that yes, we all like peas, the generous host takes us to his kitchen, where the plan is for him to whip up a few meals from the show.

Every minute counts in cooking, but once Blanc’s heated some oil and garlic in a pan for the Poached Eggs With Tomato Fondue, he starts eating into the allotted time by telling us about one of his favourite ingredients, eggs.

“Touch my egg,” he calls out as he circulates three bowls of cracked eggs to illustrate the difference in quality between them. “No, touch it,” he says as he encourages us to prod our pinkies into each eggy bowl.

To further his point, Blanc raps on the window of his kitchen to call over his nutritionist, Natalia Traxel. “You see that?” says Blanc after Traxel has explained the benefits of eating eggs. “Voila!”

When he’s not jabbing eggs, 63-year-old Blanc is racing around making sure every guest is well cared for. If this day has proved anything, it’s that the chef is better explaining himself in his own words. So here is the world according to Raymond Blanc...