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Yorkshire Life readers help star chef Raymond Blanc celebrate his Leeds brasserie's fifth birthday in style Report by Jo Haywood Photos by Andy Bulmer
When a Yorkshireman prostrates himself at a Frenchmans feet, its safe to say the latter has done a spectacularly good job of winning the former over.
The Frenchman in this particular instance is Raymond Blanc and he has been winning over Yorkshire diners for the last five years at his stylish Leeds Brasserie Blanc. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, the world-renowned chef has hosted a series of events including a dinner for loyal patrons one of whom genuflected at his feet in thanks (and was snapped by a highly tickled Raymond on his phone), a cooking masterclass with pupils from Manston St James Academy in Cross Gates and an exclusive lunch for Yorkshire Life readers.
His passion, enthusiasm and enviable reservoir of energy make him an effusive and attentive host, as our lucky readers discovered for themselves as he made his way round each and every table to chat, joke hes a man who loves to laugh and spread a little joie de vivre.
We are totally delighted to be here in Leeds, said Raymond, in a wide-ranging speech filled with verve and infectious humour. We knew there was business here, and we were right. Its such a thriving city.
Five years is a real landmark; a landmark that we are happy to be celebrating with our most valued customers. It has been a tough time in our industry and we are so grateful that people have continued to support us and are happy that our trade has actually gone up here in the last six months quite significantly.
I know its a clich, but it truly has been an honour to serve you for the last five years. Today is about paying you back and saying thank you for the wonderful hospitality you have shown us.
The menu for our reader lunch was, of course, pitch perfect for the occasion. Chef Vijay Ventakesh and his talented team presented us with with a traditional French country pate to start, its rich meatiness offset beautifully by a deconstructed piccalilli of crunchy vegetables.
Next came a pink parcel of Loch Duart salmon perched prettily on a glossy green bed of perfectly seasoned spinach and sorrel, which added a piquant, lemony bite to the otherwise softly spoken fish.
And for pudding, we were each presented with an edible snowman. Actually, thats not true; it was a summer berry Pavlova stacked high like a sweet sugar snow sculpture surrounded by a fresh fall of jewel-like fruit.
But the lunch was not just an opportunity for us to spoil ourselves although we did, unashamedly it was also a fundraising opportunity for Marie Curie Cancer Care in the Yorkshire region. Five pounds from every ticket was donated to this worthy cause, and more than 1,000 was raised on the day with a raffle in which readers walked away with amazing prizes including a three-course dinner for four at Brasserie Blanc with two bottles of wine, a signed book and a goody hamper; a hair and spa experience at Russell Eaton Lifestyle Salon in Leeds and a fabulous freshwater pearl necklace, valued at 850, from Nicholsons Jewellers in Ilkley.
But back to Raymond the primary attraction for most of our guests (especially the ladies, who he charmed to within an inch of their lives) and his passionately-held views on food.
Food must be local and seasonal, he said. This is the intelligent way of cooking. Its cheaper, the food is fresher and more vibrant and its the only way to keep our communities alive.
Each time you reach out your hand to pick up an apple from China, ask yourself where is the Yorkshire fruit?. If there is a Yorkshire apple available, buy that instead. If not, ask why. Its an environmental and political choice, and its your responsibility to make the right choices every day.
To find out more about Brasserie Blanc, call in to see the team at Victoria Mill, Sovereign Street, Leeds, LS1 4BJ, call 0113 220 6060 or visit brasserieblanc.com
nicholsons jewellers (@nicholsonsjewel) September 14, 2012
Le RayMonde: the scoop on your favourite French chef
Raymond Blanc was born in Besancon, the capital of the Franche-Comte region in eastern France, which boasts some of the best dairy, meat, wild mushrooms and clear water fish in the country.
Early inspiration came from his mother, the formidable Maman Blanc, who advocated using only fresh, local, seasonal produce to cook tasty family meals. She might not be overly-familiar with Oscar Wilde but she instilled in her son the celebrated authors maxim I hate people who are not serious about their meals.
Raymond arrived in England in 1972 to work as a waiter at the Rose Revived near Witney in Oxfordshire. The head chef took ill, however, allowing the French waiter to become the French chef, using the knowledge and passion he inherited from his mother to propel the restaurant into the Michelin Guide.
He has continued to ride this seemingly unceasing wave of success with the accolade-laden Le Manoir Aux QuatSaisons and his expanding chain of Brasserie Blanc restaurants, while also finding time to champion and nurture the talents of others, notably Martin Burge, Michael Kayne and Yorkshires own Marco Pierre White.
Forty years on from his first forays in the British hospitality industry, Raymonds love of his career his culinary calling shows no sign of dimming as he continues to spread the gospel according to Maman Blanc through books, television programmes and involvement in numerous associations focusing on food, business, farming and gardening.
Pedal for Yorkshire (@pedalyorkshire) September 16, 2012
Since Brasserie Blanc Leeds opened in 2007 over 70K baguettes have been baked, 11K portions of mussels munched & 32K snails swallowed!
Brasserie Blanc (@brasserieblanc) September 12, 2012
Raymond Blanc (@raymond_blanc) September 13, 2012