“It’s frightening how many toxins we take in via our food. So many people don’t know about this.”
Looking at the plan of the garden it seems Raymond is creating a huge orchard.
“Yes,” he confirms. “We have already planted 3,000 trees, many from my friend the winemaker Xavier Guillaume, who lives only 20 miles from my village near Besançon.
“He is also a fabulous pépinière – his family have been grafting and growing vines for more than 100 years. He’s one of the three greatest vine cultivators in the world. Did you know he has actually changed the DNA of the trees so that they can better adapt to climate change? He’s a genius.”
Raymond’s new film project will reveal more about the true nature of our current food supply in supermarkets.
“The idea with my show is to show the public what we have lost in Great Britain. In supermarkets it’s all about sugar. Taste equals sugar.”
I ask him what he believes is the secret of Le Manoir’s sustained success.
“Warmth… generosity. The first thing I did here was kill the protocol of ‘table’. And do away with the aloofness of traditional fine dining. I wanted to create a happy place where people smile at you. A place of total gentleness and thoughtfulness and caring. A place where all guests feel special. It’s not about us. It’s about you, our guests. We are very lucky in that we have a team at Le Manoir who do this very well. The team here amazes me.”
Having spoken to many of the staff at Le Manoir, it’s heartwarming to hear and see the esteem and high regard they have for their boss. They clearly love working with Monsieur Blanc.
I mention the conversation I’d had the day before with General Manager Jan-Paul Kroese about emotional intelligence and the importance of training staff to anticipate guests’ individual needs.
“Yes, it’s all about emotional intelligence of course, and it’s also about curiosity,” Raymond tells me. “It’s much harder to train someone who has no curiosity, and to share your ideas with them.
“Emotional intelligence is crucial, but it’s also about giving the staff who work here the feeling that they are co-owners. For example, all the gardeners here own their own part of the garden. It took me a long time to understand this.”
Is it easy to recruit the right staff?
“Actually, no,” Raymond reveals. “Our business is hugely popular, and we are well known, yet we have difficulty in recruiting staff who understand the true meaning of service.
“Generally our industry has not trained or cared for them well. We want to change perceptions of the hospitality industry, which is why we have created an encouraging environment at Le Manoir. We’d love it if more young people felt inspired to join us.”
Le Manoir has some wonderful paintings and sculptures – mostly owned by Raymond.