Eyebrows were raised at the teaming of one of the world’s most innovative chefs with Coles but Heston Blumenthal explains that his relationship with the giant supermarket chain continues his fascination with the challenge of producing food with a shelf life, as well as native Australian ingredients.
Eyebrows were raised at the teaming of one of the world’s most innovative chefs with Coles but Heston Blumenthal explains that his relationship with the giant supermarket chain continues his fascination with the challenge of producing food with a shelf life, as well as native Australian ingredients. UK celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal turned modern gastronomy on its head with his science-enabled looking and multi-sensory approach to dining with his iconic first venture The Fat Duck, which was followed by books, television shows and eateries such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Hinds Head. Although The Observer’s Chef of the Decade is known for popularising molecular gastronomy (a term he doesn’t like as it sounds elitist) through his acclaimed three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck, Blumenthal has always balanced his exotic creations with accessible meals away from the Duck. His first book was a family cookbook (Family Food: A New Approach to Cooking) and his early ventures into television, such as In Search of Perfection, showcased classic and nostalgic foods. Then there is his upcoming restaurant, due to open at London’s Heathrow Airport next year, which will be inspired by the work he did for In Search of Perfection. Blumenthal has a history of working with supermarkets. He worked behind the scenes for Marks & Spencer and has a range of products available at Waitrose in the UK. Last year, Blumenthal’s Christmas range was available exclusively to Coles, and sold out in weeks. The range is back this Christmas. Next year the supermarket will launch Blumenthal products inspired by native ingredients. “I’m absolutely fascinated at the whole process and the challenges that we, whether it’s a supermarket or a food company, have in producing food that is transportable and has a shelf life, whether it’s frozen or fresh or whether it’s an ambient product,” Blumenthal explains over an Earl Grey tea at Public CBD. “I also believe that within any price category you have a big variance in quality, so something for 75 pence can still be great. Through the behind the scenes work I did for Marks & Spencer, I started to get more interested in the mechanics. We started working with Waitrose five years ago and we took some of the ideas and techniques that we developed for either The Fat Duck, the other restaurants or for some of the TV shows, and tried to incorporate those into the range that we’re doing in the UK.” In town as part of his third trip to Australia this year, Blumenthal was a guest of Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape. He’s also in the country to research and discover native ingredients for next year’s range. “Australia has some of the best produce in the world, the beef is the best in the world and this year we’ve bought more Australian truffles than Perigord ones from France – they’re so good. It’s also the Indigenous stuff – lemon myrtle or whatever – it’s being able to look at those things and then come at it from two angles. It might be a Cornish pasty, a Scotch egg, a pork pie, it might be a sausage, it might be a burger, it might be a food that Britain’s taken into their arms and Australians have done the same – take that and twist it with some Indigenous produce. Also, to take some of the nostalgic foods that you have in Australia, from lamingtons to Tim Tams, and then twisting it.” The night before this interview, Blumenthal ate at Jock Zonfrillo’s new restaurant Street-ADL. Zonfrillo is known for his foraging and love of Indigenous ingredients. Blumenthal says the Adelaide-based Zonfrillo is a great chef who contains the “kind of knowledge I’m really excited to start learning about”. “The native Indigenous ingredients will be the initial flagship approach and the idea is that it’s through my eyes. I’m a big kid who is inquisitive. When you see something for the first time, that’s when your mind gets excited and energised. The more you get used to something that’s when the creativity becomes a little bit more difficult – the more you know about a subject. At the beginning, you’re not influenced by knowledge you have on that subject, so you’re prepared to try a much wider range of things. So, that’s really important.” In The Fat Duck Cookbook, Blumenthal wrote that he would one day like to retire in South Africa. It’s also been reported that Australia will host his first restaurant outside of the UK. “I can’t guarantee it, but I will say it’s more than pretty likely that the next restaurant I’ll open will be in Australia. The South African retirement thing; I’ve got loads of relatives over there, so my dad had a beach house over there, and my sister’s been there for years. That was always planned. But I might be 105! I may be able to retire over there and split my time between there and here. It’s my third time here [Australia] this year. I love it.” thefatduck.co.uk