Created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc OBE, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is a honey coloured 15th-century Chiltern manor house that has been sensitively transformed into a 32-room hotel and restaurant. This year, the famed hotel celebrates 35 years.
Michelin-star chef Raymond Blanc on his passion for fishing
20th May 2019
Acclaimed chef Raymond Blanc OBE reveals the history of his love of fishing, including his favourite fishing spots and the best ways to cook a catch
What is it that you love about fishing?
I live a fast and busy life, so days when I can fish are a great luxury for me. You are in touch with pure beauty and suddenly the only stress and worry is the disappointment of missing a fish that has risen to your fly. Fishing is a joy because it has ethics: you cannot be a rogue and you must respect the conventions — for example, no maggots or worms should be used in a trout stream. I don’t get to fish as much as I would like to, but I try to book in some days to just escape and live in the moment.
When did you start fishing?
I grew up in the Franche Comté region in France. My siblings and I were always taught by our father that we needed to look after each other and so we worked together as a family for our family. We used to hunt, fish and gather wild mushrooms — some we ate and some we took to the local market to sell. I was seven or eight years old when I was given a rod for my birthday. I used to go fishing for hours with my Papa for gudgeon in the nearby River Doubs. Having watched my father and people around me, I taught myself to cast — apparently, so I have been told, I do this very well. My brother Gerard taught me how to catch freshwater crayfish. We would sell some to local restaurants and then take the rest home — Maman would boil them so the shell came off easily. They were absolutely delicious.
Where are the most memorable places in the world you have fished?
The River Doubs, as I spent so much time there. It is very close to my heart — it stretches from eastern France to western Switzerland and the surrounding scenery is beautiful. Also, the rivers near the Jura mountains in France were a good place to go for trout — we would go high up and camp out for days on end. In the middle of the forests, the streams and rivers cascade into large pools, which were perfect for trout as they hid camouflaged among the stones of the bed.
When I came to England nearly 40 years ago, I used to fish on the River Windrush, which runs through the Cotswolds through Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford and Witney. I would fish and watch people enjoying picnics along the river — just wonderful.
Fishing in Thailand is also beautiful — when I get a moment, I would love to return there. I also love to visit the markets and hawkers.
What sort of fishing do you do?
I enjoy fishing for trout and pike.
What is the best way to cook your catch?
I, like my Maman, cook the fish simply as the taste is just perfect — with a little lemon and mayonnaise on the side. Brown trout always has such flavour. Just cook it in a pan with unsalted butter — watch the trout begin to arch and the white flesh start to break the skin. Today, though, when I fish, I return them to the river — I just love the thrill of the catch.
What are your favourite pieces of fishing kit?
I always have my Le Chameau boots in the boot of my car — for the garden and for fishing. I also have a warm and waterproof jacket — it always seems to rain when I go fishing — and a sturdy pair of gloves.
Who is your favourite fishing companion?
I like to spend a day fishing with friends, but also occasionally with my two sons. We do a little fishing and then enjoy a picnic with
fresh cheese and wine. I would also love to fish again with Mark Peregrine, director at The Raymond Blanc Cookery School — we have worked together for over 30 years and used to fish together often. He is a very good fisherman.
Any fishing disasters?
Well, I have fallen in on many occasions. I wouldn’t say that they are all disasters, but I do tend to be in the water quite a lot!