Raymond Blanc is constantly interrupted by well wishers, customers and staff who want to thank him, chat and catch up.

It means he is constantly leaping about, grasping people’s hands, smiling for selfies, pouring wine, rearranging the Christmas flower arrangements, even serving food, all the while, chatting, smiling and spreading some good old Raymond Blanc bonhomie.

This is, after all, where he’s in his element, right here in the hub of one of his restaurants.

Neither does he resent the intrusion, welcomes it even. “I have no ego” he tells me when I ask if it ever gets too much. “And I love people. And it’s Christmas. Why wouldn’t I be happy?"

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The sprightly Frenchmen sitting opposite me could have put his feet up long ago and retired to Tahiti to sip cocktails on the beach. But not Raymond Blanc OBE, who has single-handedly created one of the world’s most famous culinary empires and is busy telling me about his latest business venture, the opening of his first Oxfordshire pub.

We must call the newly relaunched Black Horse in Thame a pub for diplomacy’s sake, and while it has a bar, and plenty of punters drinking real ale, the main focus is certainly on the huge atrium style space at the back where diners are already crowding in to get a piece of the action.

There are now 16 of his White Brasseries (pubs) in the UK, as compared to 20 Brasserie Blancs, not to mention his endlessly award-winning two Michelin starred Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saison’s in Great Milton, his presidency of The Sustainable Restaurant Association, his partnership with the Orient Express and Eurostar, his numerous TV programmes, appearances, columns, books. Need I go on? It’s amazing he’s standing at all.

And to confirm my very thoughts, a customer approaches, greets him and adds: “I don’t know how you do it all Raymond, I really don’t.”

“It’s what I do,” he says magnanimously.

And it is. In a word ‘hospitality’ is his life, he eats, breathes and sleeps it.

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Instead of being fired by financial success, because Lord knows if that was his goal he’d have retired to a chateau in the south of France by now, it is his legacy that fires him up.

“My job is to leave Le Manoir and all this, beyond me. People used to think I was a dreamer but now they know that we need to be more responsible.

“But ideas are only good if they come at the right time. And people are now ready to embrace core values. Things are changing and that makes me smile. We are all responsible and I’m proud to be part of that, although we’ve still got a long way to go.

But I am hopeful. The British are so in love with food. It is the future...,” he says looking about him at the packed tables.

But more than that, he has a lot to talk about, and it’s a long list - sustainability, seasonality, proper training and support for young chefs, quality, locality, produce....

“I love my industry and I’m driven because there is so much to do,” he tells me.

Decades ago, while growing their own vegetables at Le Manoir and waxing lyrical about where his fish came from, he was seen as an obsessive. Now he is viewed as a visionary.

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Not that he’s in it for the recognition, but Raymond Blanc hopes for universal change. More involved in the future of food than its past, he adds: “I’m not going to ruin it all by talking about Brexit because I don’t want to spoil things. But I’ve been offered money and jobs as far afield as Dubai, Shanghai and New York, three in the past four months actually.

“But I don’t want them. I don’t want to be thousands of miles away from my kitchens and staff. Some people manage it but it’s exhausting, so instead I have decided to grow my businesses in Great Britain and I’m very happy with that decision.

“It’s about having a team you can trust. So you just have to keep delivering the quality that people have come to expect, because British customers have changed. They are no longer scared to complain, quite rightly.

“So it’s all about assembling the right team. They are so loyal,” he says looking around him, “and we train our chefs properly because the ability to keep your team is crucial. They have the same heart and passion. Because it has my name on it.

“And we love Thame. We have been looking to open here for some time because Thame really is a town which celebrates food. So it’s not a coincidence that we’ve opened here in Oxfordshire first because we want to be the hub of the community, where you can take your family and children. So it’s all about consistency.”

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Even so, even Raymond must be taking time off for Christmas? “Oh yes,” he says eyes sparkling. “I’m going to be at home in France with Maman Blanc. She is such an incredible character, still busy. My children call her Mother Teresa on speed,” he laughs. “So I just hope I’ve got my mothers DNA.”

“So we have a Buche de Noel first and then at 7pm I flambé the Christmas pudding and bring it out. Everyone loves it out and maman (now 93) always looks forward to it.

“But of course I love Christmas - it’s is all about food. And then I’m meeting Natalia (his lovely partner of 15 years) in Paris.

“And here in Little Milton I will go to church and do a reading and sing carols before I go.”

Fitting then for the Blanc family to all be together swapping cooking and eating food in the house his father built and the kitchen where his mother cooked so many memorable meals, mainly with produced grown in his father in the garden.

Because it left a lasting impression on a young Raymond, now one of the UK’s most influential chefs, bringing imagination, enthusiasm, genius and foresight to a country down on its culinary laurels.

“It’s still me. I know who I am but while I’m still a Frenchman I am more pragmatic. I can listen. I can congratulate, although that’s still hard,” he laughs, “and I am enriched by the multiculturalism of this country. I’m just one of the lucky ones who enjoys what they do.”