Overall ranking: 3 (ranked 3 in 2010)
Chef ranking: 2 (ranked 2 in 2010)
Heston Blumenthal – Snapshot
Heston Blumenthal is a chef and restaurateur whose appliance of science to the art of cooking – called “molecular gastronomy” by some and “kitchen science” by Blumenthal – has propelled him to international stardom. His four restaurants include the three-Michelin starred Fat Duck in Bray and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel in London.
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.
From 2002 until 2004 he was a partner in the nearby Riverside Brasserie with Alfie Hitchcock and former Arsenal footballer Lee Dixon, before acquiring Bray pub the Hind’s Head, which specialises in reviving classic British dishes. In 2010 he acquired another Bray pub, The Crown, before making his debut in London in January 2011, opening Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
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 the two became the first members of a loose network of scientists and academics that have played a vital 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, and scored 10/10 in the Good Food Guide 2011.
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.
By the time Blumenthal came around to opening Dinner in January 2011, his reputation had grown so much that the restaurant was one of the most eagerly anticipated openings in recent memory. Luckily for Blumenthal, and executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, the restaurant lived up to the hype, with critics raving about the reinterpretations of historical British dishes.
However, the last few years haven’t been completely rosy: the outbreak of norovirus that forced Blumenthal to close the Fat Duck for two weeks in February 2009, cost the restaurant £200,000 in lost earnings and threatened to damage its reputation.
However, he remains one of the most respected chefs in the UK. His other two restaurants, The Hinds Head and The Crown in Bray are both accomplished gastropubs, while his makeover of the menu at Little Chef in 2008, for a Channel 4 documentary, led to a first for the roadside restaurant chain – an appearance in the Good Food Guide.
Blumenthal has also built up a formidable media career. He has appeared on cookery shows on the BBC and on Channel 4 in Heston’s Mission Impossible, where he attempted to improve the lacklustre food served in various industries. In 2010 the chef began a collaboration with supermarket chain Waitrose.