Mr Raymond Blanc OBE opens Brasserie Blanc in St Albans and then retires to Lussmanns for dinner.
Admittedly there were was no fanfare of brass and wind but somehow there was occasion and stardust with the good of St Albans assembling to listen to a Frenchman bent on reminding us all of what and how we need to be eating.
Almost reminiscent of Rhonda’s own Lord Tonypandy we listened without moving not knowing what was coming next. As I stood at the back like all fashionable latecomers (well, I was leaving a full restaurant of our happy diners) I arrived to an immediate toss of heads as Monsieur Blanc with Gallic wit reminded that sustainability involved us all and that we, ‘Lussmanns’, were at the forefront or at least on his bandwagon heading it in the right direction.
Faces familiar and some faded enjoyed the evening fuelled by Champagne, canapés and lots of pictures although mostly of the Frenchman hugging female fans of all types. I happily took a couple of bookings as I held court at the entrance though I was certainly not in contempt of spoiling a great evening. It is impossible, you see, to turn a booking away regardless of where you are.
Before leaving to check on our own busy restaurant I was advised that we would be expecting an additional party for dinner, Mr Blanc plus one other. As my nerves shook with the very thought of the big cheese popping over for a neighbourly dinner I asked politely who the ‘plus one’ would be as though it would improve the dilemma.
As I escorted Mr Blanc personally, and realising I was the ‘plus one’, it dawned on me that a) we were full and without a table and b) I was simply not prepared.
We arrived with Mr Blanc leading the way and as we entered I momentarily took leave of my senses and forgot that I worked here; well even that I was the Lussmanns bit. A sense of drama ensued as the restaurant lost its footing, the tone fell from a busy clatter charged with conversation and cutlery digging into plates to that of a theatre eagerly awaiting the curtain call. Mr Blanc made his entrance and thus began the fanfare.
A moment like no other where he touched the room gracefully as though he had once lived there and these were his people. Standing idly and a little awkward I wondered where my place was, behind as the studious underling, next too as the patient PA or in front of as the town crier. Well, as he was in his element I adjourned to the only table available which arrived out of nowhere, and called for a large glass of red. Dinner with Mr Blanc was a feast of discussion and one hopes that our food met with his approval.
It was a delight that he should be the very man I hoped he would be.
Note: fanfare for the Common Man was written by American composer Aaron Copland in response to the US entry into the Second World War and was inspired in part by a famous 1942 speech where vice president Henry A. Wallace proclaimed the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man”.