Star Q&A: Raymond Blanc

Round & About

Beauty

Liz Nicholls asks star chef Raymond Blanc about feeding the soul in isolation, finding your calling & his surprising favourite foodstuff…

Q. Many of us parents have been home schooling, or stressing about home schooling over the last few months… Being self-taught, do you have any encouraging words about how youngsters can find their calling, school or no school? “The key is to find your passion and follow it. I am self-taught in the sense that I didn’t ‘study’ my craft but I did ‘learn’ my craft from the best. This includes my maman who taught me so much as a child about taking the best local, seasonal ingredients and turning them into wonderful, hearty, family dishes. I learnt from great chefs who I worked under – I paid attention, I practised, I pushed forward and made my own way into a world that inspired me so much.”

Q. Your childhood sounds idyllic. What’s one thing parents can do to nurture their children’s love of food? “There is nothing that will inspire children more or make them want to try new tastes and textures than to have been part of the creative process of preparing and cooking the dishes. To this day certain dishes like a simple and delicious apple tart evoke such strong and joyous childhood memories of being in the French country kitchen, cooking with my mother.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat or drink? “I do all I can to avoid processed food. I once bought a processed loaf and could not believe that after two weeks there was no mould on it! In France, every little village has a boulangerie and the French buy fresh bread sometimes three times a day. Today there are a wealth of wonderful artisan food producers in the UK and they must be supported.”

Q. What’s the one food or drink that you just couldn’t do without? “Not a food I can’t do without but one I have only recently discovered – brown sauce! Yes, who would imagine a Frenchman loving the humble brown sauce. I had been Living in England for almost 40 years when one day a friend offered me a bacon butty with brown sauce. I can tell you now, it was a revelation. I cannot believe I waited so long!

Q. What’s the most useful kitchen gadget or kit no kitchen should be without? “I think most chefs would agree when I say a great set of kitchen knives. Having the correct sharp knife for each and every task in the kitchen will make everything so much easier and so much more enjoyable. Good knives are easy to handle, they are well balanced and, looked after properly, can last you a lifetime.. Another piece of kit I love is my Kenwood Chef kitchen mixer. I’ve used these machines for over 30 years, in my kitchens and cookery school, and the precision and durability is fantastic.”

Q. We’re supporting our hospitality heroes – how important it is this industry? And do you have any words of solidarity for your fellow hospitality heroes? “The UK hospitality industry employs over 3 million people, many of them just starting out on the career ladder – young, eager and full of high hopes and expectation. For them, and for the whole of the hospitality sector I say try and stay strong. It has been such a hard year but we are all in this together and we know that once this if over our restaurants, pubs, hotels will be the first places people will want to visit to reclaim some normality and joy. We live to deliver those special moments of magic and will be back to doing what we do best very soon.”

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start out as a chef? “One route is via apprenticeships. There are very many excellent apprenticeships that will give you a superb introduction to commercial kitchens. We run them at both Le Manoir and at Brasserie Blanc and can take someone with basic skills, give them the best training they could hope for and set them up for a successful career with no limits. Some of the best known chefs in the UK started this way, including Michael Caines and Ollie Dabbous who were both apprentices at my Le Manor!”

Q. How have you coped throughout the last year & what have been your go-to sanity savers? “I was at home, and isolated from most of my family – as well as my team of chefs at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Brasserie Blanc. My way of keeping sane was to cook and cook! I chose simple dishes that evoked happy memories and provided the connection to those who I missed so much. I used ingredients that were easily-available and needed only basic kitchen equipment and out of this came the inspiration for my new television series and book Simply Raymond.”

Q. Who would be your five dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional? “Other than friends or family, of course, what could be better, I think it would be amazing to have one big table with all the great chefs I have been lucky enough to train over the years. What great things they could teach me now.”

Q. Like me, you eat regularly at Brasserie Blanc… What are your favourite dishes on the menu? “Yes, I live very close to our Brasserie Blanc in Oxford so I am in there at least once a week. I help to create the seasonally changing menu with our Executive Chef Clive Fretwell who learned his craft under me at Le Manoir – we have worked together for over 30 years now – amazing! I know all of the dishes very well, every season I have a new favourite but some dishes are classics and stay on the menu throughout, including our very special cheese soufflé. I enjoy this as a starter but also on its own for a light lunch – it is so incredibly light in texture that you can almost imagine it is calorie-free!”

Q. What other exciting plans do you have on the horizon? “I currently have the new television series Simply Raymond Blanc running on ITV on Saturdays mornings. This will be repeated over the summer on weekday evenings so if you have missed any of them don’t worry! My new recipe book is also coming out any day now – Simply Raymond. Like the television series the book is a collection of my favourite, simple home-cooked recipes – nothing fussy or over-complicated. These dishes are the ones that mean the most to me; the ones that connect me to my dearest family and friends.”

Star Q&A: Andy Triggs Hodge

Round & About

Beauty

Three times Olympic rowing gold medallist Andy Triggs Hodge started rowing because he thought it would be fun, now he is sharing that sense of fun through Race The Thames 2021, we chatted to him about his career, the importance of sport and the event taking place in March

How did you get involved in rowing in the first place and why, what was it that attracted you to it?

I started rowing at Staffordshire Uni – not a typical rowing uni – because a friend suggested it would be fun. I had no idea what that innocent moment would lead to. From there I found something that sparked my imagination, passion and vitality in life as a whole, and I found myself getting better grades, improving my outlook in life, everything seemed to get better when I took up the oar. It really does conform to the saying, ‘the more you put in the more you’ll get out’.

Were you sporty generally?

I was always last to be picked for school sports, football, running, etc. I used to play a bit of rugby in the second row, but I never scored a try or flourished. I challenge everyone who thinks themselves as unathletic, I believe they just haven’t found ‘their’ sport. It’s why giving young people a chance to try all forms of sport through school is key to their development as well-rounded individuals. Sport plays such a big part in life, everyone will be good at one sport, they just have to find it. This also applies to adults.

Lewis Hamilton said winning the seventh F1 world title was beyond his wildest dreams, but that he had ‘secretly dreamt as high as this’, when you got into rowing was that your ‘secret dream’ to get to the top, winning Olympic and World titles?

I started rowing because I enjoyed it, and I’m lucky enough to say that I finished rowing enjoying it. Winning was always and only a by product of the elements I held dearest – self-improvement; enjoyment and being with friends in a common goal, the sacrifice; achieving one’s potential in anything is directly proportional to the sacrifices made.

Do you miss that competitiveness now you’ve retired or are you someone who has to win at everything you do?

Winning has never been a driver for me, since I retired, I replaced my passion to achieve something (which only started when I found rowing) with two things: First, trying to be a good husband, to make up for the time my wife had to put me first despite the hardships in her life, and to my sons who saw a dad who was reduced to the knackered shell of a man each day as I returned from a training programme designed to keep the human body on the red line seven days a week. Secondly, to find a way to create something for the sport I love. Rowing needs new avenues and opportunities as the sport risks becoming obsolete. Now my focus is on Race the Thames – an event for London Youth Rowing. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see how it lands in March!

Tell us about Race the Thames 2021, how can people get involved?

The event is trying to be as open and inclusive as possible, primarily an indoor rowing event, but you can also contribute to the challenge on any indoor machine. There are two challenges for the teams of eight (male, female or mixed) to choose from; the Race the Tidal Thames, 72km completed in a week or a day, and the Race the River Thames, 342km completed in a week. The ‘field of play’ is an amazing online map that we’re going to bring to life in an exciting way. We’re looking for teams of rowers and non rowers alike: friends, families and colleagues, schools and places of work, across gyms, home machines, anywhere people can access a machine, and any time in the week of 19th to 26th March.

And it’s in aid of London Youth Rowing, what’s that all about and who does it help?

Teams choose their own charity to support, as well as LYR with proceeds split 50:50 – I’m really proud to be able to support many charities through this event. LYR supports young people from backgrounds and communities that would make it very difficult for them to find rowing. I had a comfortable up bringing and I discovered rowing through luck and my ‘privilege’, and it still had such an impact on me it’s hard to comprehend. So many young people who are trapped in the hardest walks of life won’t have that chance without LYR, and knowing the benefits it could have on those individuals, not necessarily to achieve Olympic success, but simply to improvements to life by just participating like I had at uni, is motivation enough for me to live through LYR.

The LYR website says one of the aims is to ‘help young people recover their physical and mental health in 2021’ – with the events of 2020 just how important is this for everyone and how can exercise play its part in this?

Sport is so important at many levels, lockdown has decreased sport across the board. Rebuilding that is essential to getting back on track to increase activity in young people and adults alike, but also to recover our sense of wellness and vitality in our communities. I hope Race the Thames is the motivation to our participants to keep our spirits up and the inspiration to those who LYR help to keep striving and pushing forward.

To find out more and get involved visit www.londonyouthrowing.com/event/racethethames2021

Unique moment of time

Round & About

Beauty

Professor Stephen Hawking had a fascinating relationship with time and this year Bremont are marking that and honouring the eminent scientist with the launch of its Bremont Hawking watch collection.

The brand has worked with the Hawking family to create something unique and special dedicated to the British scientist whose stud of time enhanced our understanding of the universe and beyond.

The classically styled Bremont Hawking Limited Edition watch features a retrograde seconds hand and grand date and contains four wooden discs inlaid into the back of the watch taken from the desk at which Hawking contemplated the mysteries of the universe.

Only a limited number of watches will be made and all with unique features setting them apart as a truly stunning timepiece.

To complement the men’s watch, Bremont is also releasing a limited edition number of women’s watches, the first it has produced and around the face lies a bezel of diamonds – another first for Bremont.

Bremont co-founder Nick English said of the collection: “Professor Stephen Hawking was arguably one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last hundred years. We wanted to celebrate this incredible man’s life and his fascinating relationship with time.”

Bremont is an award-winning British company producing beautifully engineered chronometers at their headquarters in Henley.

Thick & thin: hair loss tips

Round & About

Beauty

Jamie Stevens, hairdresser to the stars including Hugh Grant and Olly Murs, talks frankly about the sensitive topic of balding – and how to combat it

Thinning hair is a subject that’s close to my heart. Researching it has helped me understand the reasons for hair loss, how to slow it and, most vitally, how to help conceal it without a hair transplant.

I’ve seen the effect hair loss has on confidence – our survey of 2,000 men revealed many would rather have a small penis, be cheated on or have their internet history made public than lose their hair. A fifth think thinning hair makes them less attractive and a quarter are worried it makes them look older.

Hair loss causes real anxiety. As someone who has thinning hair myself, I hope getting men talking will stop them suffering in silence. There are lots of options. Clever cuts can make hair look thicker, and hair fibres and disguise spray cover a balding spot well. Hair plugs are a more expensive but long-term option for men who really don’t want to be bald. There does come a point when shaving is best but some men go too early – Prince William, for example, probably didn’t need the buzz cut as soon as he did.

Tackle thinning hair early and you can hang on to hair for longer. Grooming staples are the foundation for any good haircare regime; anti hair-loss shampoo and conditioner plus a treatment spray help reduce the rate of hair loss by prolonging the growth phase.

About 70% of men will be affected by some sort of male pattern baldness, from completely losing the hair, to receding or thinning in areas. Genetics affect different areas of the hair. The top area will thin and fall out, but the gene that affects below the recession and occipital bone (what we call the “Friar Tuck” area) means this doesn’t thin or fall out in tandem with the top. The simple top tip for cutting thinning hair is the back and sides should be shorter and thinner than the top. Also try colouring: darker hair looks thicker, and colour swells the hair shaft to enhance thickness. Volumising products also offer short-term improvement. Disguise colour spray will instantly make hair look thicker; hair fibres matched to your hair colour are another instant solution to make the hair look thicker.

Find a style to suit fine hair; for example, adjust a parting to avoid bald patches. Longer hair weighs more and may leave more scalp exposed. Never rub wet hair with a towel: thin hair is fragile and can break, so pat dry. A silk pillowcase causes less damage.

Practice makes perfect – if I asked you to spray a car it’d take more than one go! Look online for how-to videos and avoid wet gels or waxes. Pastes and clays are best as they are more matte.

Click here to check out Jamie’s products.

Beauty & The Beach

Round & About

Beauty

Are you “summer ready”? Well, we know that means many things to many people and we are not about to make any imperious statements on how to look – on the beach or anywhere!

Some of us are in the low-maintenance camp when it comes to primping and preening, but we all want to feel our best selves, especially when the sun shines. And applying a lovely moisturiser, fresh from the fridge (expert tip) is one of those small joys that make life just a little sunnier.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be jetting off towards somewhere exotic, have been invited to a wedding or just want some sparkle, the good news is that there are so many new easy-to-use products and treatments for all pockets, including travel versions (100ml or less). Happy holidays!

Sun protection

Protecting your skin doesn’t have to be a faff. What’s more, experts at the British Skin Foundation say own-brand products are not necessarily less effective than pricier options. However, dermatologists rave about La Roche Posay’s Anthelios range which sinks in superbly and offers SPF 50 (the factor recommended for face and hands, which show damage soonest, whatever the weather). Another beauty insider fave is Institute Esthederm’s Adaptasun. If you do get slightly too much sun, or are flying, try this aloe vera sheet mask by Masque Bar.

Make-up

Cult beauty fans: Huda Beauty’s Summer Solstice Highlighter Palette boasts four sunny colours to exaggerate cheekbones, brow bones and collarbones… don’t be alarmed – they work on all age ranges and skin tones! Helen Mirren recently waxed lyrical about microblading (the semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo) which has helped frame her face. Check it out at your nearest salon as well as Urban Decay’s brow range. Every handbag needs a YSL Touch Eclat (check out the limited edition stars design). And NARS does peerless bronzers such as this in Sun Wash. Check out Cult Beauty, Birch Box and Beauty Pie for bargains.

Tan & Glow

Some people seem to “glow” effortlessly and one of them is Tamara Ecclestone whose new range called Show, especially the Shimmer Body Oil (£35) is adding a classy occasion-ready shimmer to our skin here at R&A Towers (and looks pretty on your
dressing table); www.harveynichols.co.uk We’re also enamoured with NKD SKN pre-shower gradual tan lotion; www.nkdskn.com. If you do want to eschew the slap-on-at-home route, the Tanning Shop team can help you tan as safely as possible courtesy of their spray tan and sunbed options – visit www.thetanningshop.co.uk

Hair

Protecting your hair from UV damage is just as important as protecting your skin if you want to have healthy hair. Check out our helpful tips (see right) for sleek summer hair and Label M products such as its Protein Spray which can be spritzed on before and after going in the water and in the sun. Another hair product insiders are raving about is Matrix Biology Advanced Keratindose Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray (£12.35, www.lookfantastic.com). And be prepared to swoon when you sniff Diptyque’s heavenly Eau des Sens range, which includes a hair mist we didn’t know we couldn’t live without until now! www.diptyqueparis.co.uk

Defuzzing

For perfect pins, FFS (it stands for Friction Free Shaving, people!) has come to the rescue with a deluxe “shaviour” range! This includes a rose gold or silvia engraved German-designed razor, made to handle women’s curves, refills and add-on products, with subscription packages from just £9 a month… Just hide your box of goodies from housemates/ family! For a truly sleek finish, waxing has come a long way, with the best practitioners (such as Pure Beauty in Fulham) using only the finest resins, natural ingredients and aromatherapy oils – good practitioners can remove some hair as short as 1mm.

Extras

Beauty editors and the glossy posse have been glowing about the bespoke hyaluronic acid injections courtesy of Chelsea’s Lovely Clinic; www.thelovelyclinic.co.uk

We don’t approve of “anti-ageing” as such but if you want a beauty boost, Harley Street dreamboat Dr Dirk Kremer (Google him!) has form when it comes to skin rejuvenation. Regularly named one of the world’s top plastic surgeons, he spent years working in an intensive care burns unit and recently launched his own peptide-driven SkinDoc range. www.skindocformula.com. And we’re swooning over the new flavours of Purple Tree Skincare’s Miracle Balms. Made from naturally derived ingredients, these handbag must-haves  are cruelty- free and vegan friendly for multiple uses.

Skincare

Fade Out’s vitamin-enriched formulations harness natural active ingredients to even skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure, ageing and hormonal changes in less than four weeks, thanks to vederine and kahai oil; www.fadeout.com. We’re also big fans of the Origins x Madeleine Shaw range, full of natural goodies, including the Glow-Co-Nuts face mask; www.origins.co.uk. And check out Yardley London’s summer range www.yardleylondon.co.uk

Expert Hair Tips

Ever wondered why, during summer, your hair becomes extra damaged? It might feel particularly dry and brittle. This is because UV rays burn the inside and outside layers of the hair follicles. Just like unprotected skin, the hair can get sunburnt, too. So, just as you would apply sun cream to your skin on a sunny day, you should think about protecting or covering your hair or maybe covering it up with a hat. Your hair has the same pH level as your skin, so it needs just as much protection. You need to consider your scalp, too, which will become sensitive, dry, and flaky if it burns. When your hair gets burnt, it becomes more fragile and likely to break. It will also increase colour fade, making your hair look dull and lifeless. You can prevent this damage by using a UV protector. The pick of the best are Mythic Oil, Intense Repair by Shu Uemura, and Nutrifier by L’Oréal. The mask will smooth out sun-exposed hair, recover softness and help to clear up any flakiness on your scalp.

Follow all these tips, and you will be beach ready in no time!