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HESTON BLUMENTHAL: Food, innovation, and entertainment

Heston Blumenthal isn’t exactly a household name in the United States, but the three Michelin-Starred British chef is one of the most famous names in the culinary world and one that any serious foodie should know. You won’t find him on American television like his countrymen Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, but his influence on food culture cannot be underemphasized.

The first thing one notices about Blumenthal is that he’s not a typical chef, on or off television. His cooking is clinical and professional. Don’t expect the energetic performance of a Gordon Ramsay or Emeril Lagasse when watching him cook. His food is the star of the show and he himself is merely the assistant—and that’s what makes his approach to cooking, especially as a celebrity chef, so unique.

If you have an interest in food, you may have heard the term “molecular gastronomy” bandied about in the last ten years. If it wasn’t for the fact that he dislikes the term, he would be the star example of this form of scientific cooking in action. Watching him cook, you can see the expert technique combined with a deeply scientific understanding of thermodynamics and chemistry that has won his restaurant, The Fat Duck, the title of “Best Restaurant in the World”. This is a man who studies the dynamics of protein contraction in steaks and prepares his ingredients days in advance.

Blumenthal’s scientific approach has another dimension as well—he isn’t afraid to treat traditional ingredients in a new way. He has been cited as one of the foremost influences on the expansion of frontiers in ingredient usage—we’re talking bacon-and-egg and mustard ice creams, a liver and mandarin parfait that looks like a fruit, and snail porridge. He also has an obsession with liquid nitrogen that would endear him to the average teenage delinquent—he uses it to make several of the dishes on his flagship restaurant’s menu, including the mustard ice cream, which he serves with gazpacho.

Even if you couldn’t care less about chemistry, you might be interested in Blumenthal’s “restaurant magic”—he makes food a source of entertainment. There is a variety of names for the Heston Blumenthal dining experience, but “multi-sensory” is one of the most common. In “Heston’s Feasts,” his cooking show on Channel 4, he goes above and beyond in producing some truly incredible combinations of food and theatrics. From a real “4 and 20 bird” pie to floating moon-themed desserts, this show gives one an idea of the level of detail he goes into to produce some of his creations. His flagship restaurant is known for producing some of its more unusual dishes—such as the bacon-and-egg ice cream—at the table. Unsurprisingly, a seat at The Fat Duck is £195 per person, and his other restaurants operate on a reservation-only basis.

While you won’t find tips on a fifteen-minute dinner from Heston Blumenthal, he remains a masterful source of information on cooking and a highly entertaining celebrity chef.

–Edmund Brennan

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