Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets

Monday 21 February 2011, 14:38

Melanie Jappy Melanie Jappy

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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.

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  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

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

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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.

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    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!

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    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 !

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    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

  • rate this

    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.


  • rate this

    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


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