LETTERS:Michelangelos of the vegetable garden

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jane Jakeman ("Foodie fantasies are so hard to swallow", 8 December) displays considerable ignorance about restaurants and provisions. Her comment "a good chef is a good cook and nothing more" is ludicrous. I know Raymond Blanc well, and he w ould never compare himself to Michelangelo. But he does have considerable skills which Ms Jakeman ignores.

First, he employs 25 chefs, almost all of them British, and he trains them well. He is an inspirational leader and a first-rate teacher. (Our own restaurant is lucky to have a chef who worked with Blanc for three years). He creates dishes, which requiresa great palate and a considerable knowledge of food chemistry, what ingredients will work well together, and how they react when cooked. He buys about £1m of provisions a year, and he grows a great deal himself in his three-acre kitchen garden. He runs a substantial business with outside shareholders, writes cookbooks, and broadcasts lucidly.

We in our restaurant - and Raymond Blanc in his - use mostly British ingredients, local whenever possible. We buy small vegetables because they have more flavour. They are more expensive than the large ones because they taste better. Our village shops don't stock them because people won't pay, so we buy directly from growers during the summer and from Covent Garden in the winter.

If Ms Jakeman is stuck with a choice between fish fingers and escargots, she lacks imagination as well as a knowledge of the market.

Yours faithfully, PAUL HENDERSON Gidleigh Park Chagford, Devon 8 December

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