CELEBRITY chef Raymond Blanc was among 100 guests at the official launch of Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse in Henley.
The Frenchman was at the restaurant in the old chandlery in Station Road to show support for the chef he tutored for three years at his Michelin-starred Le Manoir restaurant in Great Milton.
Mr Dickens, 27, laid on champagne and also some samples from his menu, including 12-hour braised beef with potato mousseline, seared tuna with peanut twill and chilli jam and chocolate orange parfait.
He said: “I learnt a huge amount from Raymond, I worked at his restaurant for three years, starting as a commis chef and moving up to senior chef de partie.
He has offered a huge amount of support in giving advice on how to run a business. I was slightly nervous as I was cooking for Raymond. Cooking for another chef is always nerve-racking. He tried all the food and he said he liked the flavours so I was really chuffed.”
Mr Dickens opened the restaurant on the Easter bank holiday Monday but decided to hold an official event so he could invite neighbours and business owners.
“Everyone has been so kind and generous with their words,” he said. “I always like to go out into the restaurant after every service to get feedback. We have already had some repeat guests, which is fantastic.”
Mr Dickens, who lives in Thame, took over the premises after Spanish restaurant La Barca closed last month.
He had previously been a sous chef at L’Ortolan restaurant in Shinfield, as well as working at Fallowfields Hotel and Restaurant in Kingston Bagpuize where he gained two AA rosettes and helped win the Tourism South-East small hotel of the year award.
While on the subject of chefs, you may remember the story in last week’s Standard about a man in Watlington who lost more than seven stone after being inspired by TV’s Hairy Bikers, Dave Myers and Simon King.
Ray Nicholson lost almost a third of his body weight, dropping from nearly 24 stone to 16-and-a-half.
He thanked the duo on Twitter, telling them that his weight-loss story had been published in the Standard.
The Geordie chefs replied: “Well done, Ray. We have read the article and indeed find it inspiring. Thank you for your comments.”