Raymond Blanc OBE, Gary Jones and Carl Newberry

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd November 2010
Chef Raymond Blanc OBE, 2 Michelin starred Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons, Oxford restaurant
Raymond Blanc OBE,  Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons

Mr Raymond Blanc OBE

Monsieur Blanc, please outline how important training and development of the team is at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons

Today what makes me extremely proud about Le Manoir is the training and development of so many British Chefs. My background is that I'm self taught; I never once worked under another Chef, which may now seem perhaps strange, that training is at the core, the very heart of Le Manoir. We succeed by empowering our team, by developing them, ensuring that they have the equipment and tools that they need to do their jobs. By ensuring that they can manage their time, and to deal with the every day pressures that the kitchen often has. I have fought very hard to install key values, often having a battle with my chefs, to ensure that they look beyond the food on the plate, and for them to understand the relationship between the food and the growers; the fisherman. Encouraging my Chefs to think more than just about the creativity of being a Chef, but to understand the produce - its beauty; its nobility; the traceability but also the craft that surrounds the raw ingredients. What is so rewarding is that we share our success, we keep nothing to ourselves Gary Jones, Benoit Blin, myself, sharing our knowledge passing it on to a Commis who will, if we succeed, after a few years in turn, pass on that knowledge and train other British Chefs. This gives me the greatest amount of pleasure, that they (the Chef) can pass on this knowledge, this skill and continue our core values they have learnt at Le Manoir. We have a responsibility to pass on our knowledge. Carl and Paul have a responsibility to pass on their knowledge to the younger Chefs. Gary, Benoit and I want to create a culture of success and at times we fail, everyone does at times, but watching a Commis grow and develop; to see the Commis then take and accept more responsibility, is truly rewarding. We welcome 90,000 guests a year, we work in each department at the highest levels of excellence, this for the last 26 years and for 6 years before at Les Quat'Saisons. The demands on the operation can be huge. All my life, together with my team, I wanted to create a responsible industry where chefs embrace essential values; such as training, passing on knowledge, learning about provenance and local and seasonal values "¦. Creating a successful, sustainable business that cuts down waste and embraces recycling. We have all worked very hard to deliver the right environment for our Chefs and other staff to learn, and I want us to continue to teach, train and develop our Chefs and that training is the core and key to the success of Le Manoir.

Monsieur Blanc Thank you

Thank you!

Gary Jones

Carl is a human dynamo, he's full of positive energy and to have a guy that has grown up with you; within the kitchen team. He is a guy that has been developed by RB and myself over many, many years. He has done every single section as a Demi Chef, as a Chef de Partie and he has grown and grown. When he finished at Le Manoir he went away and got some great schooling with The French Laundry and Thomas Keller. Carl is like a human sponge, he just soaks everything up. It is absolutely critical that I have someone that knows exactly what I would do in any given situation so the kitchen runs smoothly and I can take a day off because Le Manoir is a seven day a week operation. In this size of brigade it is essential that you have a Head Chef. So is he important - Yes, definitely, a magnificent young man with a very bright future.

Gary, for the Head Chef role at Le Manoir, are you more likely to take someone who has come up the ranks? How often would you go out of the business to employ someone in that role?

We have done that before and have bought Chefs that have been Sous Chefs in 3 Michelin star restaurants before, and brought them in as Sous Chef at Le Manoir, but in my opinion it doesn't work as well.

So do you prefer to groom them?

I don't like to have a set way because you have got to have different approaches with different people because everyone is different. I have found, from past experience, it is better to grow your own which is fabulous ...like the vegetables, it's exactly what we are doing with the Chefs - there is a whole history of these guys going way back to Marco (Pierre White), Paul Heathcote and the rest of the Chefs that have passed through this operation. We have always grown our Chefs here and it's really important because they fully understand what we want because, different people do things differently. The bottom line is Monsieur Blanc and Le Manoir have been here for almost 27 years and, you have seen the carpark today, it's chocker block and it is like that all the time.

The garden is chocker block; everywhere is chocker block!

Yes, it's a fantastic business from very humble beginnings and we are still trying every single day to get that right. And when a guy like Carl, has been around you for 7/8 years he feel very confident in his ability.

Carl Newberry

Carl, thank you very much for your time today. I know you are massively busy. If we could start by you telling us a little bit about your role here at Le Manoir.

I am Head Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons and above me is the Executive Chef Gary Jones and of course RB, the Chef Patron. I started at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons as a Commis, back in 2000. I left the operation in 2005, when I was Junior Sous Chef, and then I came back.

Carl where did you go to when you left Le Manoir?

When I left I went to the British Virgin Islands to work for Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island, and then from there I spent two years in California in The French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller. Then I came back to Le Manoir in 2005.

How was California and more importantly The French Laundry?

Good. Very good. I was on an eighteen month visa and I saw everything that I wanted to see at The French Laundry as it was a smaller kitchen than I'd been used to at Le Manoir. But originally I just went to Necker Island to save a bit of money and have a break before taking my next step, which was The French Laundry.

And both the Necker Island and The French Laundry, were they both a result of you spending five years at Le Manoir?

Yes, because Sir Richard used to have a claim in Le Manoir - a part ownership with RB (Raymond Blanc), so the connection was there and Gary Jones was, of course, the first Head Chef on Necker Island, again so it was having that connection to send the next guy out there - which we have already done again recently.

What about The French Laundry? When I was working at Le Manoir, I went out on a stagè, in my holiday. I'd read the book and thought it was great, so I wanted to go out and see what it was like. And I just knew, when I came back that, that was going to be my next career move. So I spoke to Gary (Jones) and told him that I wanted, The French Laundry to be my next move, we spoke about me having another year with RB, Gary and the team, then a year on Necker Island so that I would be relaxed and ready to go and be able to make enough money to have a half decent lifestyle out there... so that is what happened.

Carl, how have you developed and improved as a manager and a chef whilst working under RB and Gary?

I suppose knowledge from when I first started to where I am now, from working in different restaurants around the world; Although we are all still learning it's nice to be able to show the new guys when they come into the kitchen new skills that I've learnt over the years from RB and Gary. Different techniques - that's probably one of the biggest things I have learnt.

For me, one of the things I always notice about the guys from Le Manoir is it's not just about the food on the plate every single product within that process - from where it grows; where it originates - RB is passionate about all that and he just in-stills that in everyone, doesn't he?

Yes, I think Le Manoir is a very different restaurant to a lot of other restaurants around. Just look at where we are - we are not in a major city; we're in a little country village with these outstanding gardens and massive amounts of our products are home grown and all organic. How many restaurants in London can go outside and into the garden and pick a bunch of strawberries here or potatoes or leeks or go into the poly-tunnels where we keep all the micro herbs - picked fresh in the morning, there is not many restaurants than can do that? And the guests can walk around and see all that and share that. You've got the pond, the gardens and the Japanese Tea Garden, the Orchard - a lot of people will come in for lunch at 12 O'clock and won't leave until 6 because they are able to enjoy all those aspects.

Yes, I saw a lot of people scattered around in various corners today.

Yes, there is a lot more to it than just coming in for lunch and going and that's something RB is very proud of.

Carl, what has been you single most professional challenge since being at Le Manoir? And how have you overcome this?

Umm, for me I suppose taking a little bit of a step back from being one of the guys from when I started. When I went to Sous Chef, from being a Chef de Partie where you are running a section to then taking that next step to Sous Chef, you have to be a little bit more distant from the guys.

You can't be one of the boys I guess?

Yes, exactly. You can get on with the guys but you are in a different sort of category because you have got to discipline them and gain their respect.

I guess it's taking that first rung onto the management ladder really, isn't it?

Yes, I think they see that as well. And I think that anybody who is a good Sous Chef or Head Chef, obviously, know that as well. That for me was probably the biggest challenge.

How did you go about making that change then? How did you break away from the team?

Well, I looked at the people that were already in front of me - I looked at the Sous Chef's to see how they operated.

And who were the Sous Chefs at Le Manoir at that time?

Chris Horridge.

Ok, yes.

Adam Simmons was Sous Chef as well. I looked at those guys and would see how they would interact with the team; how they would work, and how they would speak to the guys. It's a very different role looking after every station and making sure we are set for lunch - very different from looking after one section.

And how do you feel now, are you comfortable in that role now?

Yes, very comfortable. It was a big step taking on the Head Chef role because the person before me was obviously Agnar Sverrisson, who is now at Texture and as far as I know we are the only two that have been Head Chef's under Gary, so it was a real honour to take on that role.

That's a very big responsibility, isn't it? Head Chef at Le Manoir.

Yes, it is. It is a big kitchen - we have 45 Chefs in the kitchen and we set an extremely high standard that we have to meet.

And a worldwide reputation?

Exactly. So, yes it was a big challenge but I like a challenge and I have Gary and a great team.

Absolutely. Carl, how much importance do you place on training for you in your role, and your team, and how important is training, as a whole, to Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons?

I think training is a massive part of the future development of any cook or chef and it's something that we are really focusing on. Any training courses or stagès - any of those sorts things are good motivators for the chefs; ensuring that you don't stay stagnant and that you keep moving forward.

Carl, I think one of the things that I have noticed at Le Manoir over the last 6/8 years is that there has been a whole change of culture and it has become very, very people focused.

Yes, it has changed a lot since I first started here, we want to exceed the standard, but reduce the hours, look after the people that work with us.

You are investing in the people far more?

Yes, I think the whole HR role has moved on - we have three people looking after that area now.

Yes, and that commitment and help from HR has got to help you because you can only get a consistent product if your team are happy; focused; trained and they stay for a long time.

Yes, definitely it makes a big difference if you know you are going to have a Chef de Partie that is going to be here for 2/3/4 years - you get the consistency and that is very important especially at this level.

Carl, last question. What are you looking to gain from Le Manoir? In terms of your own personal development and what are you looking to gain from Le Manoir with regards to career opportunities?

When I took the role on I had a criteria of what I wanted to get out of the job and what they would get out of me in return.

And what was that?

I wanted to be involved in food costs, menu planning, obviously looking after the guys from day to day, constantly trying to hit the standards everyday - even when Gary is away. But I wanted RB's and Gary's help, to help me set up my own thing at the end of the day.

Yes, earlier you mentioned Aggi and there is no doubt that Aggi is a phenomenal cook - we can all see that, but I guess nowadays being a phenomenal cook is not enough to set yourself up in business you have to have other skills - you need to be able to balance the books.

Yes. You need to be able to make money. I think there are a lot of chefs out there who are great cooks, but if you can't manage the books then you are not going to have the restaurant.

Yes, and if it's your business it's your money!

Yes, at the end of the day we are all here to make money.

So where is Carl Newberry going to be in five years? It's OK I am not interviewing you, by the way! (Laughter)

That's a good question and hopefully in a year's time I will have a good answer for you! (Laughter)

Fair enough.

I haven't planned it yet.

Is your own place part of the plan?

Possibly. But it's still early days in my role as Head Chef I've still a huge amount to learn from Gary and RB.

Carl, thank you very much for talking to us today.

Thank you.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd November 2010

Raymond Blanc OBE, Gary Jones and Carl Newberry