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      February 2012 > Raymond Blanc – French cuisine, et moi…

Raymond Blanc – French cuisine, et moi…

The first episode of The Very Hungry Frenchman appeared on our TV screens a few days ago, and is also now available to watch on BBC iPlayer. In it, Britain’s most famous French chef – Raymond Blanc – began his mini-odyssey around some of France’s most famous culinary destinations by making a return to the land of his childhood, Franche-Comté.

This fiercely proud region (are there any French regions that aren’t fiercely proud?) is comprised of two distinct areas – the high valley of the Saône, featured in this programme; and the more rugged Jura mountains, also the location for one of our favourite walking holidays – the route follows the ridge from Lake Geneva to Lake Neuchâtel (see bottom image), allowing you to admire superb mountain views, and to stay in a different hotel every evening.

As we watch M. Blanc puttering around in a Citroen 2CV, we are reminded of all that is great about regional cooking on the far side of the Channel. French cuisine needn’t be complicated or overly fancy.

It may sometimes take time to prepare, but the enormous pride that goes into creating these much-loved local dishes – often handed down from generation to generation – produces flavours you can genuinely savour. Indeed, Blanc’s passion for “celebrating life through food – with friends around the table” seems to sum up the very essence of France.

It is touching to see him hugging his mother beside the cherry tree in the family garden, knowing that it was the 89-year-old ‘Maman Blanc’ who instilled in him a love of cooking from a very early age, and who subsequently encouraged him to leave France in pursuit of his passion. As he recalls, “My mother, the woman who inspired me to cook, pressed a St Christopher in my hand and, with tears in her eyes, said: ‘This will keep you safe.’

So he headed for Britain in the glorious summer of 1972, a country where he was to become almost synonymous with the elegance of French cuisine. Among other restaurants he has established in the UK, it is Blanc’s flagship, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which has become most beloved of gastronomes throughout the land, and which remains one of the most refined places to eat in the entire country.

ComteHis gourmet reputation notwithstanding, Blanc’s primary aim has always been to bring the French philosophy of "good food being central to good living" to the United Kingdom. Always wishing to create and serve food that can be enjoyed by everyone – "from the time-conscious business person to those looking for a welcoming family restaurant" – this new television series is perhaps the perfect vehicle for him to preach this gospel.

His enthusiasm is also highly infectious. “Comme c’est jolie!”, he exclaims of a mouth-watering Comté cheese soufflé, as it is turned out expertly on a plate. “Parfait!” came the cry as he sampled slivers of meat, infused with smoky aromas in an incredible ‘cathedral of sausage’, the purpose-built wooden ‘temple’ belonging to an expert local

Doubtless there will be many more mouth-watering moments as he continues his journey. The remaining 4 episodes will cover Burgundy, Lyon, Alsace and Provence; they will be shown on Thursday evenings at 8pm until 1 March. Please refer to the BBC webpage for information on repeats and forthcoming episodes.

Jura, France

Posted: 08/02/2012 16:19:26 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: France, gastronomy, heritage, media, opinions

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