French chef Raymond Blanc inspired by local produce in Singapore

During his recent visit to Singapore, chef Raymond Blanc used vegetables and herbs grown in Singapore for his thank-you dinner for gardeners.
During his recent visit to Singapore, chef Raymond Blanc used vegetables and herbs grown in Singapore for his thank-you dinner for gardeners.PHOTO: KENWOOD

Celebrity chef Raymond Blanc always cooks with ingredients grown in the country he is visiting

No matter where acclaimed French chef Raymond Blanc goes, he sticks to his ethos of using local and seasonal produce.

The 67-year-old celebrity chef was in town recently on the invitation of kitchen appliance company Kenwood.

He cooked a surprise thank-you dinner themed Garden To Plate for gardeners at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

He also conducted a cooking masterclass for the trade and media based on his book, Kew On A Plate, and his work at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Richmond, England.

"A huge part of my ethics has always been to use local produce. It always gives you so much inspiration to get in the kitchen and cook," says Blanc, who visited local farms to get ingredients for dinner.

He worked with Mr Bjorn Low of Edible Garden City, using his vegetables and herbs from Open Farm Community in Dempsey Hill, and went to the fish farm Kuhlbarra, which rears barramundi.

Dishes include garden beetroot terrine with horseradish sorbet; barramundi; red guava sabayon and coconut sticky rice.

The busy chef was last here in 2007. He was supposed to return for the World Gourmet Summit in 2010, but cancelled because of an accident.

He runs the two-Michelin- starred Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and the Raymond Blanc Cookery School - both in Oxford - as well as a chain of French restaurants called Brasserie Blanc.

He is also an ambassador for Kenwood and a judge for the brand's cooking competition called Kenwood's Disaster Chef, which "takes the United Kingdom's most hopeless cooks and gives them the tools and confidence needed to come into their own in the kitchen".

Recalling his own crepes suzette disaster at the age of 13, Blanc says: "The pancakes were a dream, they were so light when I flipped them. Then I placed my beautiful pancakes in a dish over the gas, poured the caramelised sauce over them and flambeed in the most flamboyant way possible.

"The dish exploded into billions of Grand Marnier-covered caramel shards across the entire kitchen, even into my mother's hair.

"After that, no one would have predicted that I would be a chef one day."

Not only did he become a chef, but he has also trained celebrity chefs such as Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal.

Blanc, president of the not-for- profit organisation Sustainable Restaurant Association in London, notes the huge movement over the past decade in the UK for better farming, ethics and strong adherence to seasonality.

He says: "Inevitably, the culinary scene changes, like fashion. But it is wonderful to see today's modern guests being interested in where their food comes from. They ask the right questions and make restaurants and shops accountable for their sourcing.

"Good food no longer needs to be expensive or from only top restaurants.

"Street vendors and market stalls do brilliant dishes and it's just a matter of finding them."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Inspired by local produce'. Print Edition | Subscribe