Back in the kitchen, cooking on one leg

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When I broke my leg six months ago, the Guardian newspaper suggested that I was accident-prone. "Prone" is hardly the word for someone capable of injuring himself in a way that took the skills of a world-class surgeon, Mr Richard Keys, plus the best efforts of a great physiotherapist, David Healy, to finally get me back into the kitchen only last week.    
Each day I undergo four hours of combined torture including 30 minutes on the bike, 30 minutes of steps (enough to kill anyone even in good health), an hour of stretching and weights, and two hours of walking, putting 80% of my weight on the injured leg - and it's hell - and certainly not a romantic stroll.  

David, a tall, strong, taciturn Australian, takes over from the machines: he throws the little Frenchman onto the massage table, and he pulls, stretches and twists my broken ankle; then he flips me over like a French pancake and buries his fingers into the various muscle groups. Oh my God, it hurts, I tell him. David: "Yeah mate, it will." I ask him if he knows the word "empathy"? A long silence is followed by the monosyllable "Nope." Them I remind David - that my goal is to get back to my kitchen, that I have many other deadlines, that my life can't be dedicated exclusively to physiotherapy, and that I have no ambition to become a paraplegic decathlon athlete.)

The day I at last got back into the kitchen, I completely forgot I was still using one stick.  I felt the elation of being back in this wonderful, familiar space, with the familiar faces of Gary, Benoit, Carl and all the others. When you go through that door, the smell hits you first, the fragrance of sweetness, and the savoury aromas of browning reactions, and then that, strong kitchen light over the work surfaces, a light for cooking, shimmering over the shiny smooth stainless steel full of hard angles.
A professional kitchen is hard and mean, and I love it. And most of all I love seeing the young chefs, concentrating on their tasks, and the noises of the kitchen, the chopping of the knives, the hiss of steam, the sound of whisks beating, and the thud of wooden spoons against saucepans. And I'm genuinely moved by the vision of all of us, bound together creating something in this wonderful realm of the kitchen. It all makes me come alive.

Of course I got so carried away that, instead of the hour and a half's cooking prescribed for me, I stayed seven hours that first day. Perhaps foolishly I was preparing a recipe for very slow-cooked lamb. It was wonderful - delicious - but how it hurt afterwards. And, of course, all that standing on one stick meant my back was messed up as well.

So my triumphant return to the kitchen was short-lived. Four days after my seven-hour marathon, I went back again, ever so gingerly.

I have to achieve my goal, and do so quickly, because I'll soon be filming more sequences of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets. After all, there's no pain in getting there.

Next blog: a tribute to M. Alain Desenclos, my partner and friend of 35 years.



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2 Comments

Raymond,

Glad to hear that you are back on your feet--so to speak--and back in the kitchen. Take it easy. I know it's frustrating but I know guys like you can never be kept down long.

Vive le Blanc.

Mark Andrews

Hi Chef,
Been a long time since we last meet in Singapore, now in Hong Kong near goody which is good , always a laugh we have remembering the good old days. So David told me of your accident,hope the leg is now getting better, will be over in UK in Jan so will come up and see you and show you my 2 boys, yeap settled down at last. regards Robin

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