To BB in Leeds to interview Clive Fretwell, Raymond Blanc’s right-hand-man for the last 27 years. Clive’s a Bradford lad living in exile in Oxfordshire but always happy to have an excuse to head north. On this occasion it’s the fifth birthday of the Leeds branch and he’s in and out of the kitchen supervising the lunchtime service which operates like the well-oiled machine it is. A bunch of schoolkids from Greengates are all got up in striped jerseys, berets and painted-on comedy ‘tashes and having a whale of a time. The Man Himself moves amongst them and despite most of them having no idea who he is, he smiles and chucks chins, goofs around and makes them laugh. There’s a plate of snails on the table and he encourages them to have a go. In fact this about sums Raymond Blanc up. He’s cheeky, quick to throw his head back and laugh, warm and funny – and intensely serious as soon as he talks about food. The famous brow furrows, he fixes your eye and the Gallic gesticulations start. Diners approach him throughout our chat and Blanc breaks off to have his photo taken with charm and patience. Clive looks after the twenty (soon to be twenty two) BB’s up and down the country; he earned his stripes at Le Manoir in the eighties and there’s clearly a great deal of respect and affection between them.They’re good company. And they threw in a lovely lunch too.