Inside Heston’s World
The celebrity chef puts it all on the line as he moves The Fat Duck from the UK to Melbourne.
Even those of us not expert in all things culinary know the name Heston Blumenthal: celebrity chef, innovative food pioneer, lover of the weird and wonderful, MasterChef and SBS food darling.
He of the cropped hair and thick-black rimmed spectacles is known for gaining 3 Michelin stars for his world-famous restaurant The Fat Duck.
In 2014 he announced he would close the venue to bring it, lock stock and barrel, to Melbourne for 6 months while renovating in the UK. Inside Heston’s World is a four part series that follows his monumental challenge to recreate his unique dining experience at Crown Towers.
This is a series produced by UK production company Thoroughly Modern Media and while I had hoped it would be from an Australian perspective, it is nevertheless fascinating for the ambitions of its star.
The first episode focusses on The Fat Duck home in the UK. I had always presumed it to be a ritzy 5 star venue in London, when in reality it is a 5 star rabbit warren of a building in the quaint village of Bray. Its reputation has skyrocketed since Blumenthal took possession in 1995, now attracting 36,000 phone calls a day. While dining is a precision experience -where 99% isn’t good enough- all of it is executed from a cramped kitchen in a building at odds with its success.
Blumenthal-created dishes (he no longer runs the kitchen) include a nitro scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, a fob watch covered in dissolving gold leaf, plenty of liquid nitrogen and multi-sensory dishes including the Sound of the Sea that comes with an iPod hidden in a seashell. Front of house staff are like a culinary army, measuring the distance of cutlery placed on the table. Everybody strives for the perfection of their eccentric leader.
“The skirting board wasn’t checked yesterday,” one manager instructs his staff. Oops.
Never shy of a challenge, Blumenthal announces that he is closing up shop to relocate for 6 months -but delights his 50 staff with the news that they will all be coming. In fact everything that isn’t nailed down is coming too -every piece of cutlery and crockery- to recreate the Fat Duck experience.
The second episode includes renovations at Crown, the challenge of finding fresh ingredients (yes including 64,000 snails for the iconic Snail Porridge dish) and profiling some of the staff embarking on their southern sojourn. One chef has to pass an English test if he is to get a work visa.
Australian media and public buzz with excitement over the impending opening. Thousands of hopefuls flood a ticket ballot to gain a table in Melbourne, while Heston cops headlines when scalpers nab hundreds of seats.
It won’t be until episode three when the venue is finally open for business.
Inside Heston’s World is the most accessible series I’ve seen with its namesake. While others celebrate his theatrical culinary finesse, this relocation puts his reputation at some jeopardy, bringing out another side to his personality. Giving it an Australian backdrop makes it all the more rewarding.
For those of us not named Matt Preston or Nigella Lawson, this is probably the closest you will come to getting a table at the Fat Duck. Bon appétit!
Inside Heston’s World premieres 8:30pm Thursday on SBS.