This week, 21 years ago, my friend and mentor Raymond Blanc OBE launched his first Brasserie Blanc, then known as Le Petit Blanc, right here in Oxford and what a success it’s been. The French-inspired brasserie has now become one of the most successful high street restaurants in the UK and I am thrilled to be at the core of it!

To celebrate the anniversary, we are launching a new spring menu, with monthly ‘retro’ specials picked by Raymond and I from menus over the last two decades – a wonderful way to reminisce over those 1996 classiques!

But first, let me tell how we got to this fantastic moment. I started out as a young, eager chef working under Raymond Blanc at two Michelin starred Le Manoir many years ago. Whilst there, I formed a close relationship with him and he sparked my interest in quality produce. I was extremely honoured when Raymond asked me to work alongside him and be executive chef across the whole Brasserie Blanc brand – this was an offer too good to refuse. At this point, Brasserie Blanc was expanding and I was excited to be involved in the growth and evolution of the business and a concept that Raymond and his team were so passionate about.

Working alongside Raymond at Brasserie Blanc, together we develop seasonal menus across all our brasseries, to create truly stunning dishes that reflect the heritage of Brasserie Blanc but also look to the future. Training and inspiring the chefs who work with us to be as zealous about the French cuisine as we are and teaching them Raymond’s ‘joie de vivre’ for cooking great food and delivering consistent results is definitely one of my favourite parts of my job.

Each year I believe the food keeps getting better. Today, looking back across the last two decades, the newest addition to our spring 2017 menu is a slow-cooked shoulder and leg of roast suckling pig with prune stuffing, caramelised crackling, sautéed potatoes, gooseberry compote and rich pan juices – so delicious I dream about it! It truly is a spectacular dish and the skill and care that goes into creating it showcases what we do best at Brasserie Blanc - fresh, seasonal, hearty French food.

The entire look and feel of the brasseries has also developed following a full re-brand back in 2015. We removed the stuffy white tablecloths and gave the restaurants a more casual, modern feel.

I am excited to watch the group grow further, with our 19th site opening in Fulham, London in June; but before that I will enjoy raising a toast to our anniversary with Raymond and friends at the Oxford Brasserie Blanc on April 25, where it will be wonderful to see some of the original 1996 team and regulars, back where it all began 21 years ago!

I hope you’ll join Raymond and I in wishing Brasserie Blanc a Bon Anniversaire – here’s to many more years of delicious French food on the high street!