Monday 21 February 2011, 14:38
There's a kitchen in a manor house on the edge of a village called Great Milton that has been my home for much of the last two years.
Now, I know what you're thinking: How great must that be... all that lovely food, nice and cosy?
And for the most part it really is wonderful.
But I need you to picture a scene: two huge camerablokes, an equally ginormous soundy, moderate sized director, delightful home economist and me, all standing against two giant chillers on a piece of floor the length of two baguettes and as wide as a pie dish.
You see, Raymond's kitchen is real. Not a set built in a studio.
And that reality brings with it the enormous fun of working in one of the best kitchens in the world as well as a few tiny issues. One of them is there isn't much space.
This year we've had the added joy of the weather, which has reduced the ambient temperature of the kitchen to one in which my morning cuppa resembles a frothy sorbet in five minutes flat.
But it does have one advantage and that is my key job as series producer is cuddling Raymond Blanc to keep him warm.
It isn't in my contract but sometimes a producer just has to do these things to keep the team happy.
I told him he could cook wearing his salopettes and ski jacket but he insisted on wearing in his whites.
That's the kind of sacrifice Raymond will make for you viewers. The man is fearless in the face of adversity.
But you'll notice the camera never sees Raymond's feet.
That is because while cooking he is standing in a heated foot muff.
No sock warmers for the rest of the location team, which I like to think of it as small but perfectly formed.
In addition to Raymond's assistants (the gorgeous Adam Johnson and new boy Kush), our crew consists of the guys I mentioned before and one more without whom we would be lost.
He's the chap who comes in first and leaves last and that is our runner Rob.
As Raymond's kitchen is a working environment, most evenings when we leave at around 7pm, the kitchen is used to service the private dining room of Raymond's restaurant.
This means that all those bits of set decoration you see on the show - the copper pans, bottles of oil, posters etc - are all taken away and stored overnight.
We all help out to get it done as fast as possible, but it is Rob who is there in the mornings putting it all back out again exactly where it was the night before.
It's his hard work that means that I don't have to answer letters telling me that the poster of mushrooms in the background at the beginning of the tarte tatin recipe has morphed into Great Fish Of The World by the time the tarte comes out of the oven.
My gratitude to Rob knows no bounds.
And, as if he isn't treasure enough, he does the washing up, which deserves some kind of recognition, possibly from the Queen or, failing that, the people who own Fairy Liquid.
Particularly as being from Cheshire, he refuses to wear rubber gloves. They are for soft southern runners apparently.
Unsurprisingly we do generate terrific amounts of washing up.
That's partly because Raymond, being a man, has a need to use every utensil and bowl in the kitchen once before requiring it to be washed.
(I have to qualify that by saying that Raymond himself washes up beautifully and did so after Sunday lunch at my house despite my protestations.)
And as we usually film two recipes in a day you can imagine it piles up pretty quickly.
We try to shoot one recipe in the morning and another in the afternoon.
It may interest you to know that my rule of thumb is the simpler the recipe appears to be, the longer it will take to film.
Don't ask me why. I truly have no idea. It's a space, time, ingredient dimensional shift the answer to which may be uncovered in a kitchen far, far away.
Watercress soup took the record last year. Several basic ingredients, not including water - five hours and a nervous breakdown. Mine, not Raymond's.
Oh how we laughed. Not.
We film everything just once on two cameras so what you see is what we filmed at the time with a few extra shots that we charmlessly call 'dumps' or 'throw ins'.
Those are the close up shots of things going into pans or blenders that help us knit the programme together.
Making a cooking show is a lot like cooking itself. It requires lots of attention to detail, good ingredients, patience and most importantly, a whole lot of love.
And that, let me tell you, is what you get when you work with the kind of team I am blessed to have had on this show. I'm the luckiest producer in the world.
I really hope you enjoy watching it as much as I have enjoyed making it.
It means a lot to get feedback from people who watch the show and I'll do my best to respond to as many of your queries as possible.
Melanie Jappy is the series producer for Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets.
For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
Join the discussion...
Friday 18 February 2011, 10:07
Tuesday 22 February 2011, 14:05