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Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets

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Melanie Jappy Melanie Jappy | 14:38 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

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.

If you saw the last series of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, it's the little bit of heaven where we film most of the show and where we've been lucky enough to film a second series for BBC Two.

Raymond Blanc

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.

We filmed Heston's Perfect Christmas Dinner in Siberia with Heston Blumenthal and I swear the crew needed fewer clothes.

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.

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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.

Cameraman Andy Smith stands next to Raymond Blanc, who is holding a chocolate macaroon cake

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.

Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets is on BBC Two and BBC HD at 8.30pm on Monday, 21 February.

For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

Read more from Melanie at the BBC Food blog about Raymond Blanc's trip to Fife for the first episode of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    How fantastic to have a programme made with such care and detail and with Mon.Blanc a serious exponent of his art and not some thrown together 'cookery show'
    which is sadly becoming the norm

    Huge thanks

  • Comment number 2.

    Markyboy - thanks so much for your kind comments. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series. Melanie

  • Comment number 3.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the programme on the BBC and the reproduction on the website. I can say I have not missed out on the detail as I have had the benefit of repeating the parts I may have missed out or misunderstood. Besides the delivery of the programme wastes no time on reflecting the fine art of cooking by portraying the essentials in a charming and relaxed way.Thanks to the BBC and Melanie and of course the star Raymond Blanc.

  • Comment number 4.

    I watched the programme tonight and thought it was brilliant. Raymond Blanc makes it look so easy. I wonder has Raymond produced a reciepe book with these reciepes in, I would love to own it. We don't have enough of these programmes.
    Thank you

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Rui and Irene - so glad you enjoyed last night's programme. I managed to miss it! But have it recorded of course! I would say three of the four recipes were easy but the macarons...well, as RB says, they can take years to perfect but are really worth trying.

    Regarding a book, there is a book out now with all the recipes from series one and two and a few extras. Published by Bloomsbury or of course, the recipes are on the BBC food site. Follow the links to recipes from this page http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chefs/raymond_blanc

    Next week it's LAMB and one of my favourite programmes.

  • Comment number 6.

    By the way, I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried out any of the recipes from the series. And any questions you may have about them I'll do my best to answer.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Mel, I have to say I adore this show - the obvious passion and love for cooking Chef Raymond demonstrates throughout is infectious - as a former chef (many years ago!) I can genuinely say that for the first time since I left the industry, watching the great man at work makes me miss it and part of me wishes I had Adam's job - a small part of me!

    I should also add that as a fan of most cookery shows, this one is near perfect - beautifully shot, edited, and assembled - not in the easiest circumstances going by your story above!

    I just have one question which I'm sure you'll know the answer to - the music used during the show - is it composed for the show, or is it from other sources?

    Thank you - and I already have my fingers crossed for a third series, I could watch Chef Raymond boil water for half an hour and derive endless entertainment from it!

  • Comment number 8.

    After Raymond's superb Piece montée I've decide to give it a go. A few of us at work have started dinner parties in the style of 'Come Dine with Me' (sorry, wrong channel, but great fun!). I've already decided on a French evening so my take on Croquembouche should be fun. Raymond said it was easy didn't he?? Here goes...
    Excellent production Melanie. The series is a delight to watch and so inspiring!

  • Comment number 9.

    Melanie and Raymond - This is my fave programme! I am in awe of M. Blanc's talents and passion. He is so skilled and loves the process that you just know this is for real and not just for the cameras. What would help me greatly (since I cannot currently afford the Manoir's cookery courses) is to have a list of the utensils that Raymond Blanc uses throughout. [I am especially struggling to find his large balloon whisk, his strong plastic see-through piping bags, and the names and dimensions of all of the piping nozzles he uses for the eclairs and the icing.] It would be wonderful if these could be posted on his website with the supplier as it will support a novice like me to replicate Raymond's cooking as close as possible. Any help greatly appreciated !

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello all!

    Thank you so much for all the kind words and support. Lovely posts from all.

    Fairlinda - On the show RB uses a mixture of domestic and professional equipment. I try to push him to the domestic but you can imagine the raising of eyebrows that sometimes elicits! For the large baloon whisk do look online at suppliers such as Nisbets.co.uk or nextdaycatering.co.uk. They also sell the pastry rings which RB advocates using as they give your pastry a much crisper base. They are almost impossible to find in normal domestic cookshops I've found...

    But beware, one your on Nisbets mailing list you get a doorstop of a catalogue a couple of times a year. They also sell the disposable icing bags. For a more domestic selection, Lakeland also sell disposable icing bags. I saw them in the catalogue that arrived the other day. (Btw the ones we used on the show kept on splitting with somewhat hilarious results. Not sure where they came from though...)

    Davey B - thank you so much for your kind comments. Re the music, much of it was composed by Dru Masters, some was library music taken from AMW and there were quite a few tracks from the movie "Amelie" soundtrack.

    Paul - good luck with the croquembouche! Everyone told me no-one would ever try the tough recipes but I'm pleased to say they are the ones I get the most feedback on! Love to see a photo if you do make it. Post again and I'll see if we can't work out some way of you getting that to me.

    Best wishes all! Lamb next week. We visit former F1 champion Jody Schekter on his farm. And RB's sister surprises us with a visit!

  • Comment number 11.

    Fairlinda - meant to give you the nozzle dimensions for the eclairs. For the choux pastry RB uses a 1.5cm/½in fluted nozzle and for the icing a 0.5cm/¼in flat nozzle. FYI the specific equipment needs are usually listed at the top of the recipes on the BBC Food recipe site. But if you've got any further queries or it's not clear, post again here and I'll see what I can do.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the cakes and pastries last week, and learned a great deal. And even though I'm a veggie I'll still be watching the lamb episode tonight, if only because there are so many amusing moments in the show!

  • Comment number 13.

    Claire666 - happy to make you laugh and hope you enjoyed the show. The dauphinoise (v delicious I can assure you) and ratatouille might have tempted you? I hope...?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    The online recipe for the chocolate macaroons is different from the program showed on the raymond blanc series 2 cakes and pastries which one is correct because i will be making it!

  • Comment number 16.

    I know this sounds OTT but last nights programme literally moved me to tears. I adore R.B's passion for food and last night was superb. He makes me want to go out to my kitchen and create! I will definitely be trying the Steak, Kidney and Oyster pudding and the divinely presented Strawberry Crumble. One question though, where can i get the Black Muscat wine that was featured and what was it called? Can't wait for the next earth moving episode

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh Ruthie...while I would never wish to make you cry, it sounds like it was for the best of reasons. For what it's worth, when we called 'wrap' on the last day of filming I went and had a big blub in a corner.

    The black muscat is called Elysium and is fairly widely available. Winedirect.co.uk and majestic wines both list it. It's about £10 for a half bottle.

    Chucky - re the macaroons. Go with the online recipe. Sorry if you were confused. M

  • Comment number 18.

    Mel I tried Raymonds lemon tea cake this week which was beautiful but have a couple of queries I hope you can clear up for me 1. in the recipe it sais use the zest only of 3 lemons but on tv prog the voice over sais use juice and zest 2. When making the syrup to cover the cake using lemon juice zest and icing sugar you get just that a syrup but in prog Raymonds is icing hope you can help thank you

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi there Kim - just use the zest. Mea culpa on that mistake.

    Re the icing, we had to truncate that section in the programme. You'll see from the recipe that he first paints on some melted apricot jam, then he paints on the melted icing sugar and lemon juice and it goes in the oven to glaze. You then take it out and leave it to harden. That's what gives it the fondant like finish.

    Hope that explains it better.


  • Comment number 20.

    Hi. wonderful programme but I find a lot of recipes have either chocolate red wine citrus fruits in which I can not have will there be any recipes without theses, also I love my pudds

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Jean8 - yes, there are a lot of recipes without chocolate, red wine or citrus and already have been on the programme. The pudding programme - the crumble, the tart tatin and the rice pudding didn't have any of those in it. The lamb programme didn't have any of those ingredients either. Coming up plenty you could still enjoy. And remember with something like red wine you can generally leave it out or replace it with something else. Likewise, lemon juice can usually be left out or replaced with a dash of white wine vinegar to acidulate.

  • Comment number 22.

    I thought Series 1 was good but Series 2 is fantastic. Monsieur Blanc is so natural and excellent with his staff. Also, love the repore between him and Adam. The recipes are so good and he (M. Blanc) makes them look so easy to produce. I would not miss one episode. Well done the BBC.

  • Comment number 23.

    I just adore this programme. I too am passionate about good, honest food, lovingly prepared. I have recently come back "home" to live after 10 years in Brittany, France and wish we could buy live langoustines and shell fish more easily. (I live in Hastings) - I never see live crabs!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Sorry, this post relates to my comment of 1st March - Mel, I made my Croquembouche for the dinner party chez moi. I confess this wasn't an exact copy of RB's but a fine effort and certainly had the 'wow factor'. Would be happy to send photo. I remember RB saying howing crucial measurements are when baking. How true. When making the crème patisserie and choux pastry I thought it wouldn’t matter if the eggs were large or medium. It does. Lesson learnt.
    The programmes continue their impressively high standard and RB’s passion for food is absolutely infectious.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hey Paul! I am longing to see a pic.

    RBJoy11 - I can't believe you never see live crabs in Hastings! That's incredible. But you do have that great bread shop down there don't you?

    BDEvans - thank you for your kind comments. So glad you're enjoying the series.

  • Comment number 26.

    Paul - I put my email address in the previous post but a moderator removed it so I have no idea how you can get me that photo. Would tell you to send it to the BBC but I've been made redundant so am not there anymore! I'll just have to imagine it I suppose! M

  • Comment number 27.

    Problem solved! I've been given an email address to which you can send pics and someone will forward them on to me and Raymond! All photos to: feedback.food@bbc.co.uk

    M x

  • Comment number 28.

    I like the cookery shows.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 29.

    Excellent shows. I know nothing about production, but they all look so relaxed. I have met RB a couple of times when he has been cooking and he IS relaxed. Maybe that is because he had the equivalent of an Adam with him.
    He signed a few books for me, and he complained about the only one that was in pristine condition. He said that I mustn't have tried any of the recipes. He was right. I have tried them now, and I have tried the Steak and Kidney Pudding. Wonderful. Anybody who admires this man could do worse than read his autobiography. It gives an insight to what makes him tick and his really genuine passion for food. None of the enthusiasm that he exudes to camera is false unless he is the greatest actor ever born.
    A real pleasure to watch these programmes. Inspiration in spades. Thank you to everybody involved.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I wounder if anyone can tell me, I have used Rb glazed lemon tea cake receipie now for the third time in a row, have gone over the show a dozen times and still the cake will not cook thoroughly at the bottom - anyone Help pls!!!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Dawn - sorry you're having problems with the recipe for the lemon tea cake.

    If the cake isn't cooking through at the bottom I have a couple of thoughts. Are you placing the cake tin on a rack in the oven or a metal tray or stone? You need as much heat under the cake as around and on top so a hot oven tray might help.

    Are you using a fan oven or a constant heat? RB recommends turning off the fan because it causes the cake to rise unevenly. This may mean that your oven is heating to a lower heat if you've got the fan off. Do you have a separate oven thermometer? Get one and put it in the bottom of your oven. It could be that the oven isn't heating evenly.

    Apologies if these are all obvious suggestions. Give it a go one more time!


  • Comment number 33.

    Absolutely love the show. Can I make a suggestion for the PDF recipes for the website? Can you please include a picture of the dish in the recipe. It makes it so much easier to picture the amazing dishes rather than just going my title, inspiring you to make a RB classic when browsing your recipe book.

  • Comment number 34.

    A very good series.

    Only spoilt by the dreadful "Listen with Mother" voiceover carefully explaining what RB has already told us.

    Why is this needed?

  • Comment number 35.

    The voice-overs are indeed dreadful (see marcadis' comment above), almost ruining another fine series. And what a joy Blanc's Gallic pronunciation and occasionally twisted English are.

    In tonight's programme (18 April), the voice-over girl added stupidity to irrelevance by taking Blanc's reference to 'sweating' (as in gently cooking the onions etc at the start of the soup recipe) as meaning 'sweeting'. Sure he said that the process makes the resultant concoction 'sweeter', but that's another matter. 'Do we really need 'er, wizout a good cuisine knowledge?', as Raymond himself might opine . . .

  • Comment number 36.

    Sorry some of you don't like the voice over. It's not always easy getting the tone right but Eva Pope brings a professional and clarifying tone to the series. But as the producer I would say that!

    As most recipes take upwards of 4-5 hours to film, you'll forgive us as programme makers if we do some times have to use voice over to truncate process. Without it, it really would be impossible to follow. If we only used Raymond's 'sync' (voice), the programme would be 20 hours long, which would be great, but might annoy other people.

    Regarding Barnacles1 specific complaint, Raymond does refer to the softening of vegetables as 'sweetening'. I've asked him about this many times and he is adamant that I am wrong and he is right. In his cooking vocabulary he 'sweetens' vegetables and does not 'sweat' them as is more common in referring to this technique. And who am I to argue? When one thinks about it, it makes perfect sense and is much more lyrical than 'sweating'....

    Eva was being slightly tongue in cheek in the way she delivered the line to point up Raymond's idiosyncracy in this regard. Apologies if you missed our gentle ironic tone. Perhaps a bit too nuanced for some if it appeared merely 'irrelevant and stupid'.

    I hate to contradict you Barnacles, but I'm sure you won't mind me putting you right on that point. Perhaps you'll think of Raymond the next time you are sweating you onions. I for one will carry on sweetening mine.

    Last in the series this week...Hope you all enjoyed it otherwise...

    Melanie (Series Producer)

  • Comment number 37.

    By your logic then all television series featuring well known chefs would require continuous voiceovers to explain what is going on to the viewer.

    More likely that somebody within the BBC decided that viewers would be unable to follow RB's delightful English.

    Eva Pope's delivery is patronising in the extreme and detracts from RB's own delivery.

    The enjoyment of the show is watching and listening to RB at work.

    The menu details are all available online.

    Marcardis - South West France

  • Comment number 38.

    Marcardis - I don't think my 'logic' says that at all...it's the way the vast majority of factual programmes are made. Obviously, if you are featuring a dish that takes 3 hours to make in reality and it has 5 minutes on screen a certain amount of explanation is required as to how one gets from A-B. That's when commentary is used. True, most cooking programmes are voiced by the chefs on screen but I didn't set out to make most cooking programmes. The rule we follow is that Raymond gives us the technical information and any background and emotional connection to the dish in his own voice. The commentary provides the more prosaic information such as grammes and timings.

    Again, I'm sorry you don't like it. If you didn't live in France I'd invite you to one of my edits to see how we put the jigsaw together.


  • Comment number 39.

    Please please please can these series be issued on DVD? I could easily watch the programmes over and over again (and very much want to!).

  • Comment number 40.

    Fantastic series - when will DVD be available?

  • Comment number 41.

    The show is brilliantly made, thank you! It is well balanced as far as vegetables and meat and has fantastic easy but exquisite recipes like Pestou Soup which I made straight away after watching the episode. The program is so lively and natural that I’m curious whether Adam really forgot the garlic or this was staged.
    Also info on products is useful and inspiring. I didn’t know Scottish raspberries were so special, hope to try them this summer. Good luck with the rest of the series and thank you for sharing the backstage information, Melanie!


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