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Chef Award

08 July 2004
Chef Award

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Heston Blumenthal

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He continues to cook at the top of the scale, is the UK's leading culinary innovator, and has managed to achieve what others [in his genre] have failed to do - to combine cutting-edge cooking with wholly satisfying flavours.
These may be the words of David Young, a member of this year's Chef Award judging panel, but they're also sentiments echoed by chefs throughout <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>

Britain about this year's winner, Heston Blumenthal. His view is supported by nominator Richard Guest, executive head chef of the Castle hotel at Taunton, who said that Blumenthal had raised the profile of modern British restaurants in Europe and the world. "What he has achieved can only create interest and hunger in young chefs, something for them to aspire to and learn from. With passion like his, people will listen, and perhaps learn completely new ways of preparation, cooking and presentation." Blumenthal's flagship restaurant, the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, a stone's throw from its sister operation, the Riverside Brasserie, scores nine out of 10 in the Good Food Guide, it earns five rosettes, the highest rating, from the AA Restaurant Guide, and in January Blumenthal became the third British chef in history to be granted three Michelin stars. Not that Blumenthal is any kind of star-chaser. His drive comes from an insatiable appetite to discover and exploit the world of molecular gastronomy. His creations, such as smoky bacon ice-cream and white chocolate and caviar buttons (combined for their molecular structures) fly in the face of any conventional marriage of flavours. And his menus, featuring dishes such as Pommery grain mustard ice-cream with red cabbage gazpacho; green tea lime sour; snail porridge, Jabugo ham; and crab biscuit, roast foie gras, crystallised seaweed, marinated salmon and oyster vinaigrette, are frequently imitated and famous the world over. His book, Family Food, a departure from the haute cuisine Blumenthal is known for, has won major awards, among them the best new cookbook (from a pool of 4,000) in the 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. But in spite of all these plaudits, accolades and reverence, Blumenthal is a modest man. Speaking to Observer Food Monthly earlier this year, he said: "I still worry every time the door opens that the customers won't understand what I'm doing here."But, clearly, they do - the magazine's readers voted it their restaurant of the year in February. "He's got two very successful restaurants and yet he's such a dignified man," commented judge and 2001 Chef Award winner Michael Caines. "I've never met anyone quite so humble"
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