Favourite food as a child?
Floating islands – meringue clouds on a vanilla cream.
Ideal dinner-party guests?
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I’d create a meal designed for them to fall in love again. I’m a big romantic. I can’t help it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
At first Napoleon, then I considered being a draughtsman, then doing medicine. Eventually
I turned to cooking.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve?
Yes, in France, with my parents. My mother is 92.
I’ve stopped making them. My most successful was ten years ago, when I stopped smoking.
I eat healthily, drink green tea and do stretching exercises. You have to be fit to rush round a kitchen. I’m not Superman, but almost.
Guilty food pleasure?
This has to be our secret, but
I love KitKats – the dark ones.
Ever order take-away?
More than you think. When I’ve been cooking for 100 guests, I crave simplicity. I’ll pour a glass of red and order pizza.
A Renault Gordini. There was always something wrong with it. I drove it to England and sold it for £20.
Work to live or live to work?
It was always live to work. Then at 42 I had two mini strokes due to stress. Now it’s more work to live.
When a waiter, I made the mistake of telling the chef his cream sauce lacked salt. I received a copper pan in my face, which broke my jaw, my tooth and my nose. I also lost my job.
Historical person with whom you’d share a bottle of wine?
General de Gaulle.
What makes getting older easier?
Learning to take pleasure in the small things.
Childhood object you’ve kept?
My father gave me
a book about the secrets of the forest and how to
forage for wild mushrooms.
What makes you grumpy?
With Martine, with large breasts, at 14. I was shaken from head to toe.
A tiny paring knife I’ve used since I started to cook.
Legacy from your parents?
A strong work ethic.
Run a mile?
No. I broke my right leg in five places when I fell down stairs.
Last time you laughed until you cried?
Natalie, my partner, cracks great jokes.
I cry a lot: movies set me off.
Award-winning chef? Paf! Two Michelin stars? Bof!
No, Raymond. As our nation’s favourite French chef, you made us Brits most proud when you were given an honorary OBE in 2008. For that reason we put you at 58, the age you were then.