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TV Interview

Raymond Blanc ('The Restaurant')

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Raymond Blanc ('The Restaurant')
Amiable French chef and restaurateur Raymond Blanc is returning to BBC Two for a second series of his popular reality show The Restaurant. Blanc, who owns the Brasserie Blanc chain of restaurants in the UK, is again on the lookout for partners to join him as business associates in their own eatery venture. With the help of inspectors Sarah Willingham and David Moore, Blanc will put various couples - including newlyweds, old school friends and a father and daughter - through their paces as they compete for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

How does the format differ this series?
"We've moved it on. Very kindly the producer and her team agreed to tinker with [the format] by making me far more involved with the core of the programme. I'm much closer to the contestants. You'll see Raymond Blanc in the kitchen as well. I love to be behind the table but I love to be involved with people too."

Do people apply for the show thinking it's their chance to get on TV?
"The BBC selected the contestants for me and they want they same thing I want: worthy winners. I've got nine couples to choose from so in that respect I was very happy not to be involved in interviewing three or four hundred people. We've got some very, very good participants this year, I would say even stronger [than last year]."

How did last year's winners Jeremy and Jane fare after the show had finished?
"They have done very, very well and they are absolutely worthy winners. Many thought that the twins (Jess and Laura) should've had the vote, but I stand by my choice. I know many saw Jane as having problems with her tear ducts, but I knew that Jane was a perfectionist. She embraced the restaurant, she fought for it, she learned, she was just amazing. They did very well afterwards, but at one stage they decided to have their own restaurant in their own part of the world so they decided to leave."

If you were starting out now with ambitions to run your own restaurant, would you enter a reality TV show?
"I certainly would go for it! I would be a fool not to. You've got everything - you've got exposure, you can show your skills and you get mentoring. But let me be clear here. It's eight weeks as an introduction to the world of restaurants. With just two months in television, can you be a great chef, a Raymond Blanc, a celebrity, a millionaire? No way."

What's the difference between UK and French food culture?
"It's huge. I came here in '72 and the food was atrocious. I'll always remember my first food experience: fish and chips on an English ferry in transit from Calais to Dover. That was quite an experience. Things are changing though. We are now going to have a consumer who is much more demanding, much more responsible and much more knowledgeable."

How do you manage to stay out of the celebrity chef feuds?
"I don't want to go there, I truly don't want to go there. Sure, I detest the approach that some chefs have taken, but I will never be personal about it. Never, never, never. What's the point? You gain nothing."

The Restaurant airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on BBC Two.

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