[Who is…] Heston Blumenthal?

Chef proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, one of only four restaurants in Great Britain to be awarded a coveted 3 Michelin stars, Heston Marc Blumenthal is probably one of the greatest chefs of recent times. Don’t just take my word for it, in 2005 The Fat Duck was named the best restaurant in the world at the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards.

Born in 1966 to his Jewish father and a mother who converted to Judaism, Blumenthal has said on numerous occasions that he considers himself Jewish. Heston’s novel approach to cooking sparked from a family holiday to France, when he visited the three Michelin Starred L’Oustau de Baumanière. Little did he know, that this experience would light the fire to his interest in cooking and introduce him to what he would later coin “multi-sensory cooking”.

Heston’s interest in cooking continued past leaving school at the age of 18 and into an apprenticeship at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, but leaving after a week. Over the 10 years that followed, he held down a series of unrelated jobs, while teaching himself to cook in his spare time. One book particularly inspired him, On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, the basic principle to come from the book being “challenge everything”.

In 1995, Heston opened The Fat Duck in a village in Berkshire. The restaurant quickly became known for its precision cooking and multi-sensory approach, this being reflected just nine years later in it becoming the fastest UK restaurant to earn three Michelin stars. In 2015 the restaurant temporarily relocated to Melbourne, Australia whilst the 16th Century building in Bray was closed for refurbishment. This meant that it was missing from the 2016 edition of The Michelin Guide, therefore losing its three stars as it was unable to be assessed. In 2017, it re-entered the guide, returning to its three star status.

The Fat Duck isn’t the only restaurant owned by Blumenthal in Bray. The Hind’s Head with one Michelin star and The Crown at Bray with two AA Rosette’s are also part of The Fat Duck group. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is his first outpost outside of Bray located within the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. Despite his name above the door and holding two Michelin stars, Blumenthal has credited all its success to Dinners head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts.

He has conducted multiple experiments as part of his pioneering work in multi-sensory cooking and dining with the help of Professor Charles Spence, the head of Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University. One of his main points of interests is how the name of a dish can change a person’s perception of taste. An example of which can be seen in his “Crab ice-cream”, a creation to accompany a crab risotto. He found that by changing the name, diners found the dish more approachable and less sweet. His idea was one ‘of creating a world, of transporting the diner – through sound, through food, through an integrated appeal to the senses – to another place’ (Blumenthal, 2008:23).

As well as his restaurants ever-growing list of accolades, Heston himself is also the recipient of several awards. In the 2006 New Year’s Honours List for his services to British Gastronomy, he was appointed an OBE. Later on that year, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Reading University. Other honorary awards include: Fellowship by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Master of Science from Bristol University in 2007 and a Doctor of Science degree by the University of London in 2013. He has also won many GQ awards, Chef’s choice awards at the 2007 World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, was granted his own personal coat of arms by the College of Arms in 2013 and in 2017 was awarded the Diner’s Club Lifetime Achievement Award at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in Australia.

‘I feel like after 20 years, I’m just starting’ (Blumenthal, 2017).

References

Blumenthal, H. (2008) The Big Fat Duck Cookbook. Bloomsbury.

Blumenthal, H. (2017) Diner’s Club Lifetime Achievement Award Speech.

 

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