The use of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen. The exploration of eating as a multi-sensory experience. The popularising of food science. The unearthing and reworking of historical British recipes. The invention of the triple-cooked chip.
It’s difficult to think of a chef who has had more of an impact on the way the world cooks than Heston Blumenthal. The UK’s very own nutty professor has developed hundreds of cutting-edge techniques. Such is his influence, even those that haven’t been lucky enough to eat at The Fat Duck in Bray – a well-heeled village about 30 minutes west of London – will likely have experienced elements of his work second-hand, with many of the world’s greatest restaurants using methods derived from Blumenthal and his development team’s ground-breaking research.
But Blumenthal’s influence extends far further than the upper echelons of the restaurant world. What sets him apart from the vast majority of his peers is that he has been able to make his complex ideas and recipes accessible to people who don’t regularly dine in fancy restaurants. The chef has made dozens of TV shows that have been broadcast across the world - most recently featuring his efforts to create dishes that British astronaut Tim Peake could enjoy in zero gravity - and published several cookbooks that simplify his techniques, most notably Heston at Home.
It’s been a busy period for Blumenthal, who turned 50 last year. In 2015, The Fat Duck relocated to Australia for a six-month sell-out. During that period, the tiny creaking cottage that houses the original restaurant was refurbished and extended and the whole experience reconceived. The meal, or perhaps more accurately the experience, at The Fat Duck is now bound together by a single narrative thread.
The menu, which lists some 17 courses, is based on a fairytale beach holiday. Dishes include The Sound of The Sea, a clever seafood concoction accompanied by an iPod that plays sounds of seagulls and ocean waves, and Counting Sheep, an extraordinary dessert that’s designed to evoke memories of infancy by using the same tastes and smells found in baby powder, all served on a floating pillow.
With just 40 seats, securing a reservation at The Fat Duck remains a challenge, but there are a number of other places to try the great chef’s food. In London, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal serves fascinating dishes that play with historical British recipes including the famous Meat Fruit, a contender for one of the world’s most Instagrammed dishes. A second Dinner opened in Melbourne in the space vacated by The Fat Duck pop-up. The chef also runs two pubs in Bray and an affordable restaurant at London’s Heathrow Airport, ensuring diners don’t need a huge budget to experience his food.
The entirely self-taught Blumenthal is no stranger to awards. His flagship was named the World’s Best Restaurant in 2005 and has been ranked at number two five times (it’s also held three Michelin stars for over 10 years). Dinner in London has two Michelin stars and was the highest new entry to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2012.
Is he honoured to add this Liftetime Achievement accolade to his collection? Of course. But he’s quick to point out that his work is far from over, in fact he says it’s just the beginning. “I consider the past 20 years my apprenticeship,” he says. “I’m only just getting started.”
The Fat Duck
Berkshire SL6 2AQ
+44 1628 580333
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
London SW1X 7LA
+44 20 7201 3833
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Crown Towers, Level 3
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank Victoria 3006
+613 9292 5779
Chef portraits: Alisa Connan
The British chef who invented multi-sensory dining
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