"Owning a restaurant may look really sexy, but that wonderful image is deceptive and very different to the real world. The first lesson to learn is to balance your ideas with the reality. If your head is in the clouds your dream could easily crash down and become a nightmare and you will become one of the statistics."
Raymond Blanc arrived in Britain from France with "absolutely nothing" and he worked his way up to becoming one of the most respected chefs and restaurateurs in the world.
"My second piece of advice," says Blanc, "is to learn all the facets of this amazing world which means understanding your customers, becoming a good businessman and a good communicator, marketeer and trainer – turning your restaurant into an experience and, of course, learning how to be the perfect host. You must do your homework. Part of what also makes a great restaurant is consistency.
On top of that you need a good-natured philosophy on life to deal with the problems that arise out of these huge challenges, together with plenty of energy and stamina to deal with all the pitfalls you will encounter. It’s a constant balancing act. You need to be able to get back up and smile about what has happened and most importantly learn from it."
Raymond did all of his learning "on the job", starting out as a waiter at the Rose Revived Restaurant. His lucky break came one day when the chef took ill and he was forced to take over the kitchen! Nothing like a little pressure to get those potatoes boiling!
In 1977 he put all of his savings and mortgaged his home to start his own restaurant Les Quat’ Saisons in Oxford alongside his first wife Jenny. Les Quat’ Saisons was an overnight success, winning him Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year, prestigious Michelin stars and a host of other distinctions.
Years later, Blanc relocated the restaurant into a sumptuous country house in Great Milton. Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons became a luxurious hotel and the restaurant is thriving. Now Blanc is lending his money and guidance to one lucky couple who will win the chance of a lifetime as part of Last Restaurant Standing.
"Opening a restaurant is one of the most popular start up businesses, everyone thinks they can do it. Likewise, our couples also think they know how to run a restaurant business, but most of them will soon realize how complex and tough it is. These inexperienced couples will be thrown in at the deep end as they go into an empty restaurant and in one week must open to the public; so they will have to learn fast."
Visit Raymond Blanc’s official website.
And catch a sneak peek of Last Restaurant Standing tonight at 9:00 on BBC America.