In conversation with LeBlanq’s foodie founders Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts.
22nd August 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 280: Jus, not gels: In conversation with LeBlanq’s foodie founders Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUESTS: Justin Clarke and Ashley Palmer-Watts of LeBlanq
TOPICS: The founders of LeBlanq drill down into their upscale gastronomy-based cycling getaways and why, for them, it’s got to be jus, not gels.
Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 280 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 22nd of August 2021.
David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And, of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:11
Welcome to the Spokesmen Cycling podcast brought to you in association with Jenson USA. I’m Carlton Reid and today’s show is a 40-minute chat with the foodie founders of LeBlanq, the upscale cycling weekender firm that’s more jus than gels. Events specialist and ex-professional cyclist Justin Clarke teamed up with Ashley Palmer-Watts, the former Exec Chef of the Fat Duck Group, to curate LeBlanq’s joyrides. These exclusive road cycling getaways visit stunning locations, stay at luxury hotels and feature day rides with cycling celebs such as Eddy Merckx and knights of the realm Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins. It’s cycling as the new golf but with knobs on. And want to know how to make the world’s best porridge? Listen on …
Carlton Reid 2:05
Jus, not gels. I love that. That’s a great, that’s a great way of encapsulating what you’re doing there. So tell us exactly and I’m gonna be difficult to know who’s going to be talking here. First, but let’s let’s go for Justin first. So what why what’s wrong with gels first? What’s wrong?
Justin Clarke 2:27
So there’s nothing wrong with gels, provided they taste good, but it’s very rare that they do. And a good meal tends to be the best way to refill if you can. So our belief is that you shouldn’t compromise. If you’re a highly trained professional athlete, then there are certain things that you need to, you know, take out of your life like joy, and, and you know, a diet that actually makes you happy. But if you’re not a highly trained professional athlete, I think that you can, you can exercise Well, you can train well. And you can eat an amazing diet, which is both good for you, but also delicious. So that the point of that line was food shouldn’t just be about calories, or fats or proteins, whatever food should actually be something you enjoy. And that’s, that’s what that line means.
Carlton Reid 3:22
And Ash, you’re kind of famous for producing food that people enjoy. Tell us a bit about your background, your culinary background.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 3:32
Oh, okay. Um, so
Ashley Palmer-Watts 3:34
yeah, I mean, I’ve been a chef for probably, for nearly 30 years actually start very young, working in kitchens. And I spent the last 20 years working at the Fat Duck group running various restaurants and dinner by Heston in London for the last 10 years. And yeah, sort of left at the end of 2019 to open my own place and pursue a couple of other amazing projects, which one of them is is LeBlanq and, and here we are, post COVID coming out the other side ready?
Carlton Reid 4:09
Because the the event we’re going to start, and then COVID got in the way, is that right?
Justin Clarke 4:14
Yes, yes, that’s, that’s why I’m actually in the Isle of Wight right now doing our final, final final checks on the events that is pretty much a year after it was due to be originally so the original dates of the first event were 23rd to 25th of September, the actual dates of the event and now the 17th and 19th of September, so so just inside a year from when it was actually first due to be stage. Yeah.
Carlton Reid 4:42
And Ash, are you a cyclist as well?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 4:45
Yep. Yeah, I have been riding since probably, well, after after the Olympics in 2012 I decided to buy a bike. And that really, you know, sort of got quite heavily into it from there really. And yeah, literally about to go out for a bike ride in about 10 minutes. So
Justin Clarke 5:04
We live the dream.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 5:06
Carlton Reid 5:07
And how did you two meet?
Justin Clarke 5:10
Do you mind if I take this one? So um, because it’s it was a chance conversation. I’ve known Ash for probably about 12 or 13 years, I was one of the team that started Taste of London and then developed into Taste festivals all over the world. But also there was that there was an event that we used to stage down in Western Australia, little tiny place called Margaret River. And at the opening, almost like kind of, you know, the cocktail party and the press reception, and all of those things. Ashley had just been on stage. And he’s just been introduced as one of our amazing chefs that have kind of flown in and, you know, really, really brilliant. And so we’re in this tiny little place and Ash kind of drops in there quite casually said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I brought my bike.’ I was like ‘Wow, you’ve brought your bike from UK, all the way down to Australia. Wow?’ I just said out of interest, what bike is it? And he said, Oh, it’s a Pinarello F8. And this was about four, four and a half years ago. And at the time, the F8 was the absolute top draw Pinarello — it was an absolutely amazing bike. And, and immediately I said ‘At some point, Ash you and I’ve got to do something with cycling and food.’ I’ve been running food festivals for last 20 years. Ashley is one best chefs in the world. We both love cycling, it was just a natural thing. It was a case of when not whether. But that for me. That was the moment that the penny really dropped.
Carlton Reid 6:40
And Justin, how did you transfer from cycling? Because then you went to IMG, which is kind of like a sports agency. So I’m struggling. Why would IMG have a culinary platform?
Justin Clarke 6:53
Yes. So. So I worked originally for the business called Brand Events, which was a almost an event creation business. And so we imagined Taste, it didn’t exist before. That idea that if you brought all the best best chefs from around the cities, one place, you know, set in a beautiful location and have a whole bunch of signature dishes being served. Wouldn’t that be a really nice thing, if you love great food? And it turns out, yes, the answer is yes, that would be a great thing. No. Literally, IMG bought the business of Taste. Actually, it was just at the start of, of 2012 into 2013. And the reason why they bought it is because they could see that the food had gone from being you know, just something that you did in restaurants had become a almost like a media and experiential subject and a passion point. You know, back when we started Taste, no one would regard themselves as a foodie. Whereas nowadays, almost everyone regards themselves as a foodie so it’s it’s IMG certainly isn’t just about sport models, I’ll be faster and etc, etc. So it’s way beyond just sportt. But I’m definitely so food has been a passion point they wanted to get into and Taste was the, you know, the biggest, most successful food festival brand.
Carlton Reid 8:16
This is a question for for both of you. But I’ll go to Ash first and ask you, but maybe Justin, you can you can give your point of view on this as well. Is there like an absolute crossover between your existing clientele at the Fat Duck, or in your new venture, and cycling? Was was there was there like a you had a base bunch of people, you know, this would fit perfectly for? Or were you completely throwing this open? And you weren’t like relying on anybody that you knew already?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 8:53
Well, I mean, from a from a, from a guest point of view, I think, you know, from from when Justin and I were chatting about it in in Margaret River, you know, the kind of the driven character of people that that ride bikes for pleasure, as well as you know, competing, but obviously, we’re all about the pleasure side of it, you know, the people that are detailed and driven, usually top professionals in whatever profession, you know, they, they, it kind of goes hand in hand. It’s it’s, it’s the enjoyment of food and wine and you know, sitting around in a beautiful place and riding your bike in a beautiful place. It just the experience didn’t exist yet. But I think it was fair to say if, you know, I think Justin would agree that you know, we had a very good idea that people this would be something quite special and some really great experiences from a food and cycling point of view. And then of course you add in the the legends of cycling as well and, you know, I can speak from, from my own experience of you know, speaking with Bradley and Sean Yates and Adam Blythe and Matt Stevens, you know, it’s quite mesmerising actually what you know, when listen to the stories and getting access to their experience and vice versa. They love the kind of world of food and chefs and it’s, there’s a kind of real mutual camaraderie and respect between the two, two crossover things really,
Justin Clarke 10:24
Completely agree. Just some, I mean, from my perspective, I had this incredible insight really, which was IMG, hugely famous for golf, obviously, is where IMG was founded with Arnold Palmer and Mark McCormack. And whilst so I was at IMG for probably about nine years. And what I was witnessing was that golf is a pursuit, its popularity, its interest, its money, etc, etc. It was kind of dwindling, it was on the decline. And then ING was also getting big time into cycling and bought commercial the rights to the Giro d’Italia, etc, etc. And I could just see, literally kind of before my eyes that the people who had previously loved golf, was starting to love road cycling. And, and I kind of figured, well, I understand golf very well. And hospitality is built into the golf experience. So these people that we were wanting to target, appreciate the lifestyle can afford the lifestyle. But really, it was one of those things that the reason why they’re not going for it is because it doesn’t exist. So so i was i was just kind of convinced that you know, that moment are met, actually, we kind of have that chat is like, well, let’s go and make it exist. And it’s proven to be true.
Carlton Reid 11:46
Because that was definitely going to be one of my questions. And then it’s the cliche, of course, the cycling is the new golf, but I was gonna go there, and you’ve kind of gone there before I went there, but I’m not done press trips in incredibly exotic golf resort in Portugal, where they, they are gonna have to attract cyclists now or other activities, because that golf has just … I don’t think it was just President Trump, it was, you know, the former President Trump, it was coming before that. But golf has certainly lost a lot of its cachet. So that cliche of cycling being the new golf, you are basically you’re living it. That’s not a cliche at all. You are you’re absolutely plugging into that. Yeah?
Justin Clarke 12:33
Yeah, absolutely. For sure that there’s that there were a couple of other factors that they’ve kind of made the timing of LeBlanq, right. And because then the other part is cyclists. I mean, I was a pro cyclist over 20 years ago. And I don’t speak out of turn, but diet, diet wasn’t actually about eating great food, it was about eating as little as you can and take drugs. That was it. Whereas nowadays, every professional World Tour professional team has their own professional chef, because they understand diet, they understand natural ingredients, how to prepare, timings, portion size, all those kinds of things. So it’s, and also INEOS, or what was Sky, that they did a huge amount of research on the fact that food is a reward mechanism for great training. And they realise that if you actually great food, you train harder. And that’s why jus not gels, because it’s actually you know, if you understand what’s going into it, it makes you feel better. You know, and therefore it’s, you know, you train better, you race better, and etc. And then the third part was that Ash isn’t alone in being a chef who loves cycling, is really a growing trend. And, Ash, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve become the almost like the dealer for bikes is everyone. Everyone who’s a chef who is like ‘what bike do I need to get?’ I need to speak to Ash first’. And you know, you’ve got a pretty much a succession of top-end chefs saying, you know, I am a bit OCD. I do want to get into this, what do I do? Is that right?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 14:07
Yeah, absolutely. It’s quite amazing, you know, people say, it just looks brilliant. ‘I’m gonna buy a bike, what should I get?’ And they’re just like, I don’t think they have an idea of the detailed barrage of questions that that, you know, come back that you need that information to try and get them on to the right thing. But, you know, you’re just trying to save people a lot of time wasting a lot of money. And just urging them to, to do what I didn’t do, because I didn’t you know, I just kind of bought a bike I thought fit, right, but it didn’t. I kind of had a bit of a mishmash of stuff and I bought a decent bike and then it’s like everything you start upgrading and before you know it, you’re on your third bike and you finally got what you should have got in the first place. So but it’s great. You know, you get into such detail. I think chefs love detail. They love sort of nerdy precision and technology and, you know, become obsessed with lightweight everything. And so I think, you know, there’s a lot of synergy between the two. And, and, yeah, and it’s one of the only things you can really do that, that gets you out on your own. It doesn’t matter who you are, because when you got a helmet and glasses on in cycling gear, you know, as famous as some of the guys are, you wouldn’t know who he is cycling past half the time so they can have their own space, their own time, you’re out in the fresh air, and you’re actually doing something that then come back and have some great food and nice bottle of wine. And it all sort of it’s like a little ecosystem really, I think, yeah,
Carlton Reid 15:42
Can we talk about portion sizes, because you’ve talked a lot about taste and enjoyment, but you need to have fuel, you need to have some good carbohydrates that you need to have, you know, if you’re going to cycling, so, do you have a bit more food, a bit more on the plate, than you would if you were doing a different kind of event? I’m asking you how much you’re going to eat on your events?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 16:05
Yeah, I mean, we’ve kind of got different stages planned out for the different meals. But if I mean, on the Isle of [Wight], with our last event up in Scotland, we started making porridge for the guys in the morning. So I said, look, I’ll make the porridge. No problem, blah, blah. But then the other two guys were making the eggs and, and whatnot. And the porridge word spread. And it was just like, I did about 19 different porridges, like, one after the other. And then they were talking about it. And Chris Hoy, he was saying, ‘yeah, some of the best porridge I’ve ever had in my life, like, how’d you do it?’ And I was like, ‘well, I’ll tell you what, 7.30 tomorrow, whoever wants to learn how to make this porridge my way, come into the kitchen.’ And well, you know, we’re doing a little masterclass. And, and I think simplicity. And I mean, porridge for me, personally, is what I would have, because it’s just that slow burner, you know, that’s going to get you from start to finish and then supplement it with some really good natural, actual foods, not not gels. I’m not, I’m not a massive fan of gels. But I’d rather actually something, you know, whether it’s a date bar with pecans, and a little bit of chocolate in it, for example, but actual food foods. But yeah, I guess different people feel different ways. And I think once you start understanding about fueling, especially as a, as a non, let’s say, a food expert or something, I think you’re going to get so much more out of your riding at the same time. So hopefully, your guests can kind of pick up on that as, as they go through the weekend, too.
Justin Clarke 17:43
Yeah, we are also lucky enough to have Veloforte, who, although they do gels, they call them nectars. But it’s it’s a brand that has kind of sprung out recently, which there is nothing artificial and synthetic to it. It is what Ashley just said. It’s natural nuts, it’s fruits, it’s it’s produce that you would eat normally. And many of the riders have said ‘yeah, Veloforte, the only problem with it is it tastes so good that you want to eat it all the time’ — so that there is the practicality of fueling whilst on the bike. But equally, you know that this was my preconception before. Before starting taste, I used to think that food is just a lot of food is that’s not the case foodies appreciate and consider what they eat. And they really select the best so it’s about eating well, not eating huge amounts. And you know that the writing the writing for a weekend of LeBlanq is, you know is tailored to the capability of the rider is not designed to be brutal and break people it’s designed to challenge but it for it to feel an exhilarating escapism, rather than, you know, can’t walk for five days because, you know, gone way beyond the limits and capabilities. So it’s kind of an in that case, the feeling is just it’s about timing is about quality is not actually about involves you.
Carlton Reid 19:09
You whetted my quality appetite, I won’t eat so much I’ll just I’ll just stick to quality. And no more gels on rides only nectars. In the meantime, I’d like to go over to my colleague David for an ad break, so hang on for a second.
David Bernstein 19:23
Hey, thanks, Carlton. And hello, everybody. It’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast. And as always, I’m here to talk to you about our longtime and very loyal sponsor, and that’s Jenson USA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen and that’s j e n s o n usa.com. Have you ever wondered about why does Jensen exists? Why are they out there? You know, the other day I I do things like this, I had the opportunity. And I went to Jenson’s About Us page and I read their mission statement. You know, have you read these mission statements and their corporate gobbledygook and they don’t really mean anything? And I just really liked what they said. And I wanted to share it with you because it’s really apropos of why they’re here, why they’ve been sponsoring thes Spokesmen for all this time. Their mission statement says simply, ‘we are cyclists here at Jenson, USA. And it’s our mission, to help inspire you to get out and ride, experience and explore. Now, it’s not something that we set on the spokesman forever get out there and ride.’ That’s really what it’s all about. This isn’t as I said before, some corporate behemoth that is owned by private equity or a New York Stock Exchange, looking to just squeeze as much money out of you as possible instead, just as they’re loyal and have been loyal to the Spokesmen, they are endeavouring for you to be just as loyal to Jenson. And they do that in a variety of ways. Number one, they’re cyclists like they said, just like you, just like Carlton, just like all of us, and they get it, they get the cycling lifestyle, they understand who you are, and what you like to do for fun, or for commuting or for all the various reasons that you that you’re a cyclist. They get it. And that’s why they have such a great selection of brand-name, late model products, why they offer them at such great prices. And why — and this is really critical — why they have such great customer service through their gear advisors. Their gear advisors are people like you and me. They’re cyclists. And so when you call and you’ve got a question, they’re going to be able to not only answer the question, but nine times out of 10 they’re going to be able to say, ‘yeah, I rode that. And this was my experience.’ And that really is how holistically, they’re really able to make sure that they can take care of you and me and everyone like us; again, whether we’re road cyclists, or we like to go out on our gravel bikes or BMX bikes or mountain bikes, or commuter bikes, Jenson, has you covered. Go ahead and check them out at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. If you’ve never been there before, if you’ve heard these ads and just have never clicked, go do it. You really will be glad that you did. And of course, if you’ve heard these ads, you know what I’m talking about. So next time you’re looking for something tyres, apparel, tubes, a pump, complete bikes; think of Jenson first Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. And as always, we thank Jenson for their support of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast.
Carlton Reid 22:51
And thanks, David, and we are back with Justin. And with Ash, and Ash, I want to I want to go backwards, if you don’t mind. And that is how do you make porridge? How do you make this porridge that Chris Hoy says is the best ever and you come in come in at 7.30 in the morning, we’ll find out how you didn’t tell us, you kind of left us there. You’ve now got to tell us you understand that.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 23:13
Okay, well, I think there’s a couple of things you can do, one, you really need to shake the box of oats to get all the fine bits down the bottom. So the more fine bits that you’ve got actually in the pan, they become really gloopy and gluey, which you don’t want. So if you want to go the first step is shake the box of oats and only get the oats not the real sort of fine flour.
Carlton Reid 23:36
Not the Ready Brek.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 23:39
Exactly exactly and then I’ll do semi skim milk. Probably go about I don’t know about half an inch over the top of the oats, a little pinch of sugar, a little tiny pinch of salt, and then probably I mean a couple of tablespoons of water and then literally put it on the heat and bring it up to a simmer slowly. And literally, I’m doing this while I’m talking to you over the internet but I’m kind of stirring thin air but you stir it really really slowly rather than you know going hammer and tongs stirring the thing because you’re scared it’s gonna stick, kind of really gently just what you don’t want to do is really mix overmix the porridge because that will just work that porridge into a gloopy mess. Once it’s simmering, then you just it’s a bit like a risotto. You just add a little bit more milk, gentle kind of incorporating stir, let it simmer a little bit more, probably give it about two or three minutes. Then just take it off the heat and let it rest for like minute and a half, two minutes, three minutes, whatever you want to do, make your coffee or tea, come back to it, put it back on the heat, another little bit of milk just to loosen it. Find a little bit of heat, gently incorporating that milk and then into the bowl. And personally, I know it’s the enemy but I love a little bit of unrefined sugar that melts just on the top and that’s the guys in in Scotland, they were like, I’ll have it however you have it and I was like well I do this and it the texture of it is brilliant. It’s like making a great risotto. But if you stir at too much unlike results you’ll get this gloopy mess, so it’s all in the control.
Justin Clarke 25:27
That’s it. That’s That’s your secret out now.
Carlton Reid 25:30
This is gonna be my most popular podcast ever I think because we’re giving away the secret for the best porridge. I will try that Ash, thank you very much. I will I will shake my porridge oats. What about so you’d recommend like Irish like fine cut or is it like a Scottish one or is it the oats are also important you got to tell us that as well.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 25:50
Yeah, I mean, there’s less that’s preference I would say you know some like jumbo some like normal loads. I like the Scott’s porridge oats, the original Scott’s porridge oats they, to be honest, it’s what we used at the Fat Duck for snail porridge and it makes the best porridge for breakfast.
Carlton Reid 26:06
Well, that’s what’s in my cupboard. So I’m a foodie. That’s great. Okay, now guys, you’ve got to tell me about the events themselves. So first of all, tell us about the first one which you’ve had one event so far, then you’ve had a believe a sell-out like when you were made the announcement for the second one that just instantly went bonkers and just sold out. And then you’ve got other events. So let’s let’s go through first of all, the first event that you’ve actually done, how did that go? Yeah, how many people need to have on it? Let’s let’s let’s hear about that, Justin.
Justin Clarke 26:39
Yeah, okay. So so the the first event that that we did was the Surrey Joyride And that was designed to be a single day ride, riding through many of the roads that Adam Blythe who was one of our ride leaders and Joanna Rowsell is a local rider. And it was her training ground that she used to train on to become an Olympic champion. And for Adam Blythe, it was it was the roads that he is the only British winner of the London Surrey classic. So again, he was revisiting roads that he’d actually been a champion on so that the ride leaders were there to almost kind of both, you know, challenge the riders but also relive the moments that were special. And but Box Hill was the kind of the start and finish points. And we did three different distances, five different groups, all of them with a following Aston Martin vehicle, amazing how when you’ve got an Aston Martin following a group of riders, no other car drivers want to have any kind of issue. It’s like wow, the Aston Martin is so um, so that that was the the format we had 44 guests and then we have two of our road leaders per team. So 54 Riders on the road. And then the afternoon was at a restaurant which had come across about four or five years previously, when we shortlist that is one of the best openings in the world is called Sorrel restaurant. It’s got one Michelin star but it’s absolutely beautiful restaurant so that that was the afternoon in Sorrel and Steve Drake, the chef of Sorrel, the special five course tasting menu, and absolutely brilliant, brilliant feedback, great reviews, and people really enjoyed it. And then the the second event which also sold out very quickly was in Perth. Sure, a little tiny, tiny village called Aberfeldy. And we had 20 guests alongside Chris Hoy. And there was there was some chef called Ashley Palmer-Watts who was Ash was actually doing the majority of the cooking for the weekend. But you also worked with the the guys from Ballintaggert in terms of the time or place in it in the trash.
Ashley Palmer-Watts 28:51
Yep. Yeah. So yeah, they we had a local I wouldn’t say how it’s like a hotel with rooms or a restaurant with rooms kind of set up lots of per share, produce all local, they’ve got their own farm etc. And so they cook the Friday night the guests arrived in the afternoon, chilled out for a bit. All met each other. Friday Night was Ballintaggert dinner, which was amazing five courses, sort of showcasing local produce. And then the Saturday was the was the big ride in the morning. So breakfast then the ride, they came back. They had great coffee stuff on the way got back to the to the house. They had massage. Some did some yoga and some stretching. We were pushing on in the kitchen at the time. But but it was a great social kind of Saturday because everyone felt very integrated into the the experience of the house and you’d have guests wandering into the kitchen going ‘oh my God; smells amazing, what’s for dinner?’ and you’re like, well, I can’t really tell you at the moment, it’s all going to be revealed a little bit later. And then down for dinner. And on that event, we were decided that we were going to sort of tailor the menu to the six Olympic gold medals that Chris Hoy won. So he won one in Athens, three in Beijing in 2008. And then two in London in 2012. So I use those cities as inspiration for the style of cooking for those particular dishes. So we started off with a Greek hot and cold grilled Greek salad. And then we went to, into three Chinese dishes, one based around kind of peanut broth called jiangsu, with langoustines, and asparagus from Scotland, and then we’re on to grilled scallops with exo sauce. And then we had this most amazing Highland wagyu, from literally about half an hour down the road. And grill that and it was slightly the Sichwuan glaze and this peanut and cucumber salad. And then back to London for two desserts, strawberries and cream. And, oh, there was a there was a quite a good story, actually, there was a we billed it as seven courses, but Chris only won six Olympic gold medals. So yeah, we made we made that is amazing. We made a little thing of it saying, you know, it was gonna be seven. It’s actually six, because, you know, it’s about the gold medals. And everyone kind of was, you know, laughing a bit. And then after the main course, I went out and, and tapped a glass and got everyone’s attention. And I sort of said, I didn’t say it was six courses. It’s actually seven. But this is a little surprise cos both Chris and I have a mutual friend. And when he heard that I was working with Chris on this ride he said ‘look, when you when you meet Chris the first time you really must give him some some hassle about one of his dishes he does at home, we all take the mickey out of him for it.’ I said ‘okay, right. So what is it?’ He said, ‘they’re, um, mushrooms done on the barbecue stuffed with Stilton cheese. And everyone apparently takes the mickey out Chris for this. And so I said, ‘you know, we’ve got this mutual friend story’. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve done my own little homage to, we’re going to call it the Hidden Hoy cheese course. And he just couldn’t believe it. It was so funny. Because it was I think it epitomised everything from the weekend, it was just this kind of really comfortable, social, friendly, big household of sort of food and drink and really approachable sort of chats and, and whatnot. And then after dinner, we had a brilliant interview by Annie Emerson, sort of sitting down and chatting through Chris’s career and some really sort of poignant parts of his career that that, you know, resonated with a lot of people I think, whilst also tasting the local whiskey from Aberfeldy, which is brilliant. And then the Sunday, got to do all again, go for another ride. Come back for some lovely food. We’re a little bit more casual. We had some wagyu burgers and some sort of chunky chips and a little bit of pannacotta for dessert. So you know, it was just, it was just so good.
Carlton Reid 33:48
All right. What about vegans and veggies? Can they can they come on your tours as well?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 33:53
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s, um, we didn’t have any vegans this time. But we did. We did have one full vegetarian who, but I mean, it was fine, which is sort of, you know, I mean, to be honest, in where I’ve come from, and the restaurant I ran for 10 years of vegetarian cooking, we’ll put as much we put as much effort into that as anything else. Really. So yeah, no problem. vegetarian, or vegan is a little bit more tricky. But you know, when
Carlton Reid 34:29
I’d like to go on to the events that are coming up in a minute but first of all why LeBlanq cos I know you’ve got in one event you’ve got coming up you have got it’s hosted by Raymond Blanc, is it associated with what so where’s where’s where’s the name come from?
Justin Clarke 34:45
yeah, it’s um, so the actual name in the original event was always going to be on the Isle of Wight.
Carlton Reid 34:53
Okay. Okay, the Isle of Wight.
Justin Clarke 34:56
There we go. And, and so that There was a bit of toying around with a few different names LeBlanc Tour, Tour de Blanc, etc. So we were just thinking of kind of, you know, going with the white theme in terms of Isle of Wight and, and, and yeah, it kind of went from that, and then it stuck. And then the C became a Q. And then the first chef that I asked outside of, of speaking with Ashley was Raymond Blanc. And they did say, Have you named your event after Raymond? And we said, we know, but it is a nice coincidence. And they said, No, no, that’s, that’s great. So yeah, it was it was mainly around the Isle of Wight been the kind of the catalyst for the idea. But yeah, we wanted to create something that was quite unique, that was, you know, sat there quite differently. We like the the the French kind of connotation of it, because obviously, it’s cycling and gastronomy tends to be deeply rooted in, in kind of French language. And that’s that that’s the reason that
Carlton Reid 35:58
I’ve noticed on the press release here that so it wasn’t just that one event. We’ve got Aston Martin cars, you’ve got Aston Martin cars. So you know, the cycling credentials of Aston Martin? Yeah. Very cycling brand.
Justin Clarke 36:13
Yes, absolutely. It’s when you, when you get to know the guys from Aston Martin, virtually all of them ride bikes, and is the second biggest pastime of all the Aston Martin owners, which is why there were so drawn to what you’re doing. And, and and we all like, you know, beautiful cars and Aston Martin. So the most. We had a bit of both that actually yourself just had a philosophy that one could go for being best in class in everything it does. So the bikes, cars, the food, the destinations, we want to always be best in class.
Carlton Reid 36:50
so let’s talk about best in class future events. So that one of the events that sold recently. So where are you going next? Basically?
Justin Clarke 37:00
Yes, so that the next one is, is with Raymond Blance at his home in La Manoir in Oxfordshire. So that that event is on the fifth of September. That is the event that the it’s 40 places sold out in 15 minutes, which was which was great. The the event two weeks after that is here on the Isle of Wight, which you know, third or third time of asking. So we were originally going to do last September, then April and now it’s this September. And then two weeks of that weather that that event on the Isle of Wight is where we introduced Bradley Wiggins for the first time to our guests. And I’ve known Bradley for a long time I think it was probably 12 when I first met him he incredible athlete, incredible character, real personality that I think is going to embody a lot of what LeBlanq wants to wants to kind of offer as guests but then the final events of the year is going to be in the Champagne region at the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa and the the rider that we have there is a chap called Eddy Merckx so we kind of figured we you know if you’re going to go for best in class then that there is one undisputed champion of cycling and that’s it so that’s that’s where we’re going to be working with Raymond Blance probably
Carlton Reid 38:19
Sweet, at the it’s sold out when when you put these through to your your your lists etc are there people who are coming time and time again so you’ve got like a core 10 people or whatever who’ve been on every trip so far and are going to be on every trip?
Ashley Palmer-Watts 38:37
Justin Clarke 38:38
It’s interesting because to the call we actually want to create a club is called the Joy Rider’s Dining Club is not about cycling, it’s about joy riding. So yes, we do have natural, you know, founder club members already. And you’re right in your number it is around 10 to 12 that are absolutely you know, ‘whatever you guys do, we’re there.’ But some but equally, we also want to make sure that we mix up the the events, the riders, the talent, the destination. But yeah, we’ll be doing more events next year it will grow and capacities are always going to feel pretty intimate. So rarely above 100 people and you know, the smallest event is probably going to be around about 20, 25 biggest will be 100 people. But what we’re also doing is not just the experiences themselves when when we do the rides when we do the menus, etc. All of that will be shared straight after the event. So you can literally ride the same route so we did you can you can understand what what we ate where we went, where do we recommend so it’s almost like a kind of an advert for amazing places to go and ride and dine. The event just happens to kind of give that place you know, that kind of promotion and visible
Carlton Reid 39:50
I’m sitting on my chair. So you can now tell me how much these things cost.
Justin Clarke 39:56
With the the the event that we’re doing at The Manoir is only £135. That’s that it’s, it’s primarily it’s a breakfast and it’s meeting Raymond Blanc and then it’s been led by a bunch of fantastic pros on some really great riding around the Chilterns. And then it goes all the way up to the place in the, in the Champagne region, which is £3,500. And that’s what that
Carlton Reid 40:21
That’s without travel? So that you got to get there, you get there in your helicopter, yes, and get your Pinarello out of the back?
Justin Clarke 40:29
There we go. It’s um the the the travel point is interesting because but most people who are coming don’t actually want to be I want to say tell they don’t want to fit into the travel arrangements because many of them are travelling already many of them are starting from one point coming to the event going to a different place. So the travel it just became the easiest thing to just exclude it and the experience starts when you arrive
Carlton Reid 40:53
Sounds wonderful. Tell people all of your social media channels. How can they find out about this give us your website give us everything that you tell people about your event.
Justin Clarke 41:04
It’s I mean, in terms of the the the way to describe it is the finest cycling you can possibly do amongst friends in beautiful locations with the best food that’s that that’s the proposition. We found that many people quite like that it’s it’s quite appealing. In terms of how to find out search LeBlanc you go straight to the website at leblanc with a Q or in so
Carlton Reid 41:30
It’s not like a C with Raymond Blanc or the white it’s it’s
Justin Clarke 41:36
leblannq.com But yeah, the Instagram channel is is very healthy. If you want to know the latest of what we’re doing sign up to the newsletter, which you can do via the websites. And that’s that’s the best place but we’ve also got a number of different media partnerships with with Rouleur magazine with the national Times, with Great British chefs etc. So there are many ways in which we’ll find out about. But the best one is go online check out leblanq.com and go from there.
Carlton Reid 42:08
Thanks to Justin Clark and Ashley Palmer-Watts there and thanks to you for listening to the Spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on www.the-spokesmen.com. The next show will be out in early September. It will star my doctor wife in the Cairngorms riding an electric mountain bike equipped with Shimano EP8system. Now, she rides to work on a bog standard single speed electric bike normally, so it’ll be interesting to see how she gets on with this premium bit of kit. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.
Jude Reid 43:12
Still getting a workout in an electric bike.