‘I feel like the past twenty years of my life has been an apprenticeship. Now is when it all begins.’ This is quite a statement from someone who, for at least the past ten years, has been single-handedly responsible for changing the British dining landscape. He might be known for his eccentric TV escapades – creating giant boiled eggs or historically-inspired psychedelic banquets to celebrities – but it’s easy to forget just how much of an effect Heston Blumenthal has had on how we all eat. He is, after all, the inventor of the triple-cooked chip, now a staple of gastropubs across the UK. He made cooking something everyone could enjoy, encouraging people to start scrutinising why certain things tasted nice instead of taking them at face value. And he’s captured the imagination of diners and chefs everywhere with his unique, outside-the-box approach to cooking. It’s fair to say that he’s a pretty big player in the world of food and science.
Interviewing Heston was the last step in my task of uncovering all the work, wacky ideas and incredible talent that goes into The Fat Duck Group – the umbrella company that brings together all five of his restaurants. I’d already talked to Jonny Lake, The Fat Duck’s head chef, Ashley Palmer-Watts, who handles the operations at Dinner, and the people behind The Hinds Head, The Crown at Bray and The Perfectionists’ Café at Heathrow T2. They all talked about a sense of community and collaboration and how having access to the mythical Fat Duck database – a sort of Wikipedia of Heston’s recipes that’s talked about in hushed tones amongst the chef community – meant they had enviable access to some seriously cutting-edge culinary research. But I wanted to meet the man who started it all to find out what his next steps were.