HIS beginnings were humble, but Raymond Blanc’s influence has been far reaching.

Born in a French village in 1949, he had to toil for five days a week with his father growing vegetables to feed the family.

Today, he is known as one of the world’s finest chefs and his name is above the door of two local Brasserie Blancs, one in Knutsford and the other in Hale Barns. Raymond says times – and tastes – have changed dramatically since he came to the UK in 1972.

“Food was of total irrelevance then,” he says.

“Now there’s a true awakening of what represents good food. The consumer is much more knowledgeable and aware.

“They ask more questions: what’s in the food, where does it come from? Great Britain has moved on in the culinary world so much and it’s exciting.

"British chefs are now mature and have a true connection with gastronomy. They connect with their region, their heritage, their history – which is exactly our aim for Brasserie Blanc.”

Diners in Knutsford can experience Raymond’s influence at his restaurant in the beautiful Royal George building on Regent Street.

Serving coffees, lunch, drinks, dinner, afternoon tea, it is one of this culinary  destination’s highlights.

The same can be said in Hale Barns where the restaurant offers a flavour of France just a stone’s throw from Manchester Airport.

Blanc’s brasseries are warm and welcoming offering seasonal, two course set menus or dishes from an extensive a la carte menu.

As well as classic French food the menu’s new dishes are inspired by Blanc’s travels to north Africa, Asia and the Americas.

“My cooking is very much inspired by my Maman, at home and in my restaurants – she is my hero and where my inspiration for my cooking came from,” says Raymond.

“We were working class, but we ate like kings. She taught me all about not wasting food, the importance of seasonality and generosity so I make it simple, delicious and seasonal.”

Raymond says growing up in post-war France was both the best of times and the worst of times.

Best, because his village was a tight-knit, loving community and the forests that surrounded it were full of adventures; worst, because money was hard to come by, especially for a family with five children to support.

It meant young Raymond had to work hard to help his parents. As well as growing produce to feed the family he also had to chop down trees in the forest and haul them back for fire wood.

He certainly earned his bread... but his mother’s cuisine was always worth it.

“We used to eat everything from the countryside when I was growing up – wild mushrooms, rabbit, duck – as a boy I would collect fresh produce from the garden and forage further afield then watch Maman go to work creating family meals, full of flavour and so full of love,” he says.

“I also love making snails bourguignon and Mediterranean fish soup. I grew up eating these delicacies in France.

“The smells and textures of each dish evoke strong childhood memories. For dessert, it has to be Maman’s simple and delicious apple tart.”

Maman Blanc was a tiny woman but a powerhouse of energy and a fantastic cook.

Raymond’s earliest memories of cooking are of Maman Blanc beavering away in the kitchen.

“She taught me to follow the rhythm of the seasons and make the most of the delicious produce available to me and also to enrich someone else’s life by passing on your own knowledge to the young,” he says.

Raymond’s father was a watchmaker by trade, but he was also a war hero, having served in the army that drove the Germans right back to Berlin.

He was a proud man who was not to be argued with, but he instilled in his son all his values of rigour and hard work.

On Raymond’s tenth birthday, his father gave him his best ever present: a beautiful hand-drawn treasure map of all the best places to forage, fish and hunt in the area.

The map led to scores of adventures in the rivers, woodland and garden for young Raymond – deepening his understanding of the best quality ingredients and cementing the importance of the four seasons.

Knutsford Guardian:

Looking back a career in cuisine seems inevitable, but it was a time when teachers determined your future and Raymond’s thought he should become a draughtsman.

One evening, however, he was walking by a Michelin-starred restaurant called Le Palais de la Bière and through the window saw what he regarded as an extraordinary ballet: the waiters were flambeeing crêpes Suzette in a pool of light, wearing handsome Bordeaux jackets with shiny epaulettes.

In that second his life was decided. Today, his reputation is well established, as are numerous establishments like Brasserie Blanc Knutsford.

And, whether he is a driving force or just the beneficiary, his diners are getting more adventurous.

“We are noticing so many more people opt for the likes of steak tartare at Brasserie Blanc – people are really pushing the boundaries when it comes to trying different and new dishes,” he says.

“The new summer menu also includes dishes such as grilled cod with lemon and squid ink risotto, to give customers something new and unique to try.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Despite being self-taught, Raymond’s influence on gastronomy has been so great that he is the only chef to have been honoured with both an OBE from Britain and the equivalent of a knighthood from France.

Despite being so well travelled, French cuisine remains at the heart of what he does best.

He sums it up like this. “It’s all about richness, combination of ingredients and flavours, but most of all I think it is the whole experience of sitting down at the table with family and a big hearty bowl of beef bourguignon,” he says.

“It’s very comforting. I think the British have very much embraced French food to the point that it is part of everyday life for many people. How often do you enjoy croissants or pain au chocolat at breakfast or a freshly-baked baguette at lunch?

“The British have embraced so many different styles of cuisine from across the world and, in a lot of ways, taken it to a new level.”