Overall ranking: 3
Chef ranking: 2
Heston Blumenthal – Snapshot
Heston Blumenthal is the culinary alchemist whose appliance of science to the art of cooking – called “molecular gastronomy” by some and “kitchen science” by Blumenthal – makes eating at his Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, an innovative and revolutionary experience. Blumenthal’s unusual scientific approach to techniques and flavours has elevated the Fat Duck to one of just four three-Michelin-starred establishments in the UK today.
Heston Blumenthal – Career guide
The self-taught chef, who was born at High Wycombe in 1966, opened his Fat Duck restaurant in Bray in 1995.
In 2002 he became a partner in the nearby Riverside Brasserie with Alfie Hitchcock and former Arsenal footballer Lee Dixon. Two years later Blumenthal sold his stake to Fat Duck colleague Garrey Dawson to focus on his Michelin-starred eaterie and his nearby pub, the Hind’s Head, which specialises in reviving classic British dishes.
Blumenthal is set to make his debut in London in 2010, opening a restaurant at London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel in the site formerly occupied by Foliage, called Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Heston Blumenthal – What we think
When Blumenthal first bought the pub that was to become the Fat Duck, Michelin stars were the last thing on his mind. Small, with an impossibly cramped kitchen, only one door, no view, an outside toilet and a reputation as a magnet for every drinker banned from other pubs in the area, it was hardly the ideal choice for a restaurant, but it was all he could afford.
However, trying to find ways round the problems created by the working conditions brought Blumenthal into contact with a physicist at Bristol University, Dr Peter Barham, who introduced him to Professor Tony Blake, and these two became the first members of a loose network of scientists and academics that have played a part in the restaurant’s development.
Blumenthal’s scientific approach to cooking – with famous dishes such as bacon and egg ice-cream and nitrogen-cooked green tea and lime sour – soon caught the eye of the critics, and the Fat Duck gained its first Michelin star in 1998, its second in 2001 and its third in 2004. It has held five AA rosettes since 2001, scored 9/10 in the Good Food Guide in 2003 and, in 2005, was awarded the top score of 19/20 in the first round-up of London restaurants by French guide Gault-Millau.
Blumenthal’s many awards include the Chef of the Year Catey in 2004, the Independent Restaurateur of the Year Catey in 2002, the AA Guide Chef’s Chef of the Year 2002, AA Restaurant of the Year 2001 and Good Food Guide Chef of the Year 2001. He was appointed OBE for his services to hospitality in 2005.
Blumenthal suffered the first real blow to his reputation in February 2009, when the chef was forced to close the doors of the Fat Duck after more than 400 diners reported feeling sick after dining there.
The restaurant remained closed for more than two weeks while the Health Protection Agency carried out an investigation. It emerged later in the year that contaminated shellfish had caused the outbreak, leading to reports that some diners were considering suing the restaurant.
But Blumenthal was praised for the way he handled the crisis, and he remains one of the most respected chefs in the UK. His makeover of the menu at Little Chef, for a Channel 4 documentary, led to a first for the roadside restaurant chain – an appearance in the Good Food Guide.
In addition to his more futuristic endeavours, Heston Blumenthal is also a champion of classic British dishes, the focus of his pub the Hind’s Head, also in Bray, and his 2007 TV series In Search of Perfection.
Blumenthal has had four books published: Family Food – A new approach to cooking in 2004, Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection Reinventing the Classics in 2006 (in which he attempts to find the best way of preparing classic dishes such as fish and chips and Black Forest gateau), Heston Blumenthal: Further Adventures In Search of Perfection in 2007, and The Big Fat Duck Cook Book in 2008.
Heston Blumenthal – Further information