Chef Raymond Blanc under starters orders at Royal Ascot

raymond blanc royal ascot preview tease
Royal Ascot & Raymond Blanc: the perfect pair
01:20 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Raymond Blanc to serve Ascot diners

He first attended Royal Ascot as a guest of the Queen Mother

CNN  — 

Raymond Blanc comes to Ascot Racecourse with royal approval.

First invited there by the Queen Mother in 1974, the “young French Republican” as he refers to himself, was blown away by the pageantry of the occasion.

Now, Blanc is back for Royal Ascot – serving up his five-star cuisine in The Panoramic restaurant as some of the world’s richest racehorses battle it out for glory on the turf.

And he has every intention of being first past the post with his cuisine at one of 12 fine-dining restaurants at the venue for the event from 20 to 24 June.

READ: Duchess of Cambridge keeps her cool as Ascot swelters

It is a love affair with Ascot, he says, which began “a long, long time ago.”

He tells CNN: “Since 1974 when the Queen Mum invited me as a young French Republican as her guest at Royal Ascot – so that’s a long way back.

“I fell in love with the pageantry, like the best event in the world, I love all the beautiful ladies with all their hats, plus of course the racing. But the food now is becoming very important.”

Blanc has cooked in private boxes for the rich and famous before but was let loose on his own restaurant last year and has been invited back.

His signature restaurant Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire has, for 30 years, boasted two Michelin stars – the benchmark for fine cuisine – and his partnership with the course extends beyond just the few days of Royal Ascot.

The two parties have created an academy as well as a scholarship for Ascot staff to come to his restaurant to “learn to raise every standard – be it food, be it service – to create an event, which is as good as the racing.”

The Frenchman’s secret to fine dining at the races is simplicity, his aim being to utilize British ingredients, ranging from Devon crab to lambs born on the Royal Ascot Estate.

READ: “Queen of the Turf” targets Melbourne glory

“When you are planning a menu like that you don’t want to be outrageously creative because you want something fresh and clean, no guilt whatsoever, food that’s fresh, festive, celebratory, seasonal at all times,” he adds.

“It’s crucially important the food must be totally beautiful and coming as well from a noble background, so no chemicals whatsoever. That’s very important to my values.”

Blanc, though, is well aware the service needs to be good but also offer restaurant goers the chance to place bets during the day.

Despite the number of covers he will be facing, the heralded chef will sneak out to lay the occasional bet himself.

“Of course I will, it’s part of the fun, part of the celebration,” he says. “I’ll put a few quid on, it’s great fun, a wonderful moment.”

Another two-star Michelin chef, Pat Howard, will also be at the course feeding diners at the On5 restaurant.

Describing Ascot as a classical event, he plans to provide the food to match that sentiment.

“I’ll never try to do anything that is too elaborate or inventive,” he says. “It just wants to be delicious, well-executed dishes relying on ingredients that are in prime season and can be bought locally. Those are the real driving factors.”

Ascot boasts 12 restaurants and 221 boxes, as well as a litany of other food outlets across the course.

As the course’s commercial director Juliet Slot puts it: “We have something for everybody, which is really important for us, and all different price points from having a lobster and steak at £35 ($43) right up to our top restaurants.

“We believe there is something for everyone at Ascot. It’s a very unique racecourse for everyone to visit.”

And she argues the partnership with a pair of two Michelin-starred chefs puts it at the forefront of horse racing cuisine.

“What we hope is a Michelin-starred experience in terms of the service, which at a racecourse is not necessarily what you might expect, but that’s a brand standard that we like to have here at the racecourse.”