Heston Blumenthal

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Heston Blumenthal
Heston Blumenthal in 2010 at 'The Perfectionist Cafe'
Born (1966-05-27) 27 May 1966 (age 48)
London, England, United Kingdom
Education John Hampden Grammar School
Culinary career

Heston Marc Blumenthal, OBE (/ˈblmənθɔːl/;[1] born 27 May 1966) is an English celebrity chef and proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire which is one of only four restaurants in Great Britain to have three Michelin stars. The Fat Duck was voted No. 1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2006.

Blumenthal also owns the restaurant Dinner in London, which has two Michelin stars, and two pubs in Bray, the Crown and the Hind’s Head, which has one Michelin star. As well as inventing a number of recipes that have since entered the mainstream, such as Triple-cooked Chips and soft-centred Scotch Eggs, he is also a keen advocate for the importance of scientific understanding in cooking (for which he has been awarded honorary degrees from Reading, Bristol and London universities and made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry), and a pioneer of multisensory cooking, foodpairing and flavour encapsulation. He has advanced his ideas in books, two long-running newspaper columns and several TV series.


Blumenthal was born in Paddington, London to a Zimbabwe-born Jewish father and an English mother who converted to Judaism.[2][3] Blumenthal has stated that he considers himself Jewish.[4] His surname comes from a great-grandfather from Latvia.[5][6]

He attended Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith,[7] and St Johns Church of England school in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire. Blumenthal completed his studies at John Hampden Grammar School, High Wycombe.[8]

Heston's interest in cooking was sparked at the age of sixteen on a family holiday to Provence, France, during which he was taken to the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Oustau de Baumanière.[9]:13 There he was inspired not just by the quality of the food but also by the ‘the whole multi-sensory experience: the sound of fountains and cicadas, the heady smell of lavender, the sight of the waiters carving lamb at the table’ and realised he wanted to be part of that world.[10] He began learning how to cook, citing the cookbook series Les recettes originales which featured many of the foremost French chefs such as Alain Chapel, as particularly influential.[9]

When he left school at eighteen, Blumenthal began an apprenticeship at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir but left at the end of his week’s probation because he wanted the freedom to work on a "wide range of things"[9]:28 Over the next ten years he worked in a "relatively undemanding series of jobs – credit controller, repo man' [11] during the day, so he could devote the evenings to teaching himself the French classical repertoire. One of the pivotal moments in this self-education was reading On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. McGee’s book challenged many kitchen practices that were generally taken for granted, such as the erroneous notion that searing meat seals in the juices, and it encouraged Heston to "adopt a totally different attitude towards cuisine that at its most basic boiled down to: question everything".[9]:38


In 1995 Blumenthal bought a run-down pub in Bray, Berkshire called The Bell and re-opened it as The Fat Duck. The restaurant quickly gained the attention of food critics, with Matthew Fort and Fay Maschler praising the cooking [9]:62 Although Blumenthal has described the original restaurant as a ‘bistro’,[9]:51

The Fat Duck was awarded its first Michelin star in 1999. In 2000 Blumenthal closed the restaurant for a month to re-design it, and re-opened with his first multi-course tasting menu. In 2002 he gained a second star and, two years later, in January 2004, he acquired a third – the fastest a restaurant has gone from one to three stars in the UK.

The Hinds Head, also in Bray, is located a short distance from The Fat Duck. Blumenthal acquired the Hinds Head in 2004. It is located in a 15th-century former tavern and serves traditional seasonal cuisine and historic British dishes. It has received many awards for its food. In 2011, it was named the Michelin Pub Guide’s "Pub of the Year".[12] [Stephen Swinsford (27.9.12) ‘Michelin Guide 2013: Winners leaked week early’,The Telegraph

The Crown, a sixteenth-century inn in Bray, Berkshire, was bought in June 2010.

In January 2011, Blumenthal opened his first restaurant outside of Bray, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. The Times food critic, Giles Coren, called it the best restaurant in the world. Blumenthal and his team worked with historians to help to develop the restaurant’s dishes which are inspired by historic British recipes. Dinner was awarded its first Michelin star in 2012. . [Simon Rogers (7.10.2011), ‘Michelin Stars 2012: get the full list of restaurants’, Guardian

It was voted the 7th best restaurant in the world of 2013.[13] It received a second Michelin Star in the 2014 Michelin Guide.[14]

In June 2014, Blumenthal announced he would launch a new restaurant, "The Perfectionists' Cafe" in London Heathrow Terminal 2 (T2).[15] [Heather Saul (12.11.13), ‘Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to launch restaurant at Heathrow airport’s new 2.5bn Terminal 2’, Independent Inspired by his ‘In Search of Perfection…’ TV series, it intends to serve superlative versions of classic British dishes and other nostalgic favourites.

Television shows[edit]

In 2002, Heston made a series of six half-hour television programmes called Kitchen Chemistry with Heston Blumenthal which were transmitted on Discovery Science along with a book Kitchen Chemistry, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. They have recently been repeated on the Community Channel.

During 2004 - 7 he presented two BBC series called Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection and Heston Blumenthal: Further Adventures In Search of Perfection.

Blumenthal moved from the BBC to Channel 4 in March 2008, joining the channel's group of celebrity chefs which already included Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Gordon Ramsay. In January 2009 a three-part series of television programmes on Channel 4 covered his efforts to revamp the menu at a Little Chef motorway restaurant on the A303 road at Popham[16][17] The Little Chef group extended Blumenthal's menu to 12 branches but, in 2013, removed his dishes from all restaurants.[18][19]

In March 2009 Blumenthal began a short series of programmes, called Heston's Feasts, showing themed dinner banquets. A second series of this was commissioned and began in 2010.[20]

From 22 February 2011, Channel 4 began airing Heston's new show, titled Heston's Mission Impossible, in which Heston targets lacklustre food served in various industries and aims to upgrade the food to meals that people enjoy to eat.[21]

Blumenthal has appeared on eight episodes of Masterchef Australia, in series 2 and 3. "[Masterchef Australia]" had a week called "Heston Week" in 2013 and also in 2014, in which Heston appeared in every episode. He also appeared as a guest judge for series 5's Heston Week where the contestants were challenged to produce dishes in Blumenthal's style.

In January 2012, How To Cook Like Heston, aired on Channel 4. The programme was aimed at home cooks and featured some of the more approachable techniques employed by Blumenthal.

In November 2012, Blumenthal fronted a television programme for Channel 4 entitled Heston's Fantastical Food and has also been part of a new 2014 series of Heston's Great British Food, again commissioned by Channel 4.

Cooking methods[edit]

Blumenthal is known for his scientific approach to cooking and holds a number of honorary degrees in recognition of this.[22][23]

Among his signature techniques are the use of liquid nitrogen to ‘cook’ foods or to disperse particular aromas during service and ice filtration to produce crystal-clear stocks and consommés. He has experimented with amplification to enhance the sounds, such as the crunch, created while eating various foods.[citation needed]

He has also experimented with foodpairing, in which recipes are created by identifying molecular similarities between different ingredients and then bringing them together in a dish. One of the first such was Blumenthal’s white chocolate with caviar. He went on to create a number of unusual combinations, including Roast Foie Gras ‘Benzaldehyde’ and salmon poached in a liquorice gel accompanied by asparagus. While many of these unexpected combinations have been critically well received, Blumenthal himself has pointed out the limitations of such an approach, insisting that although foodpairing is a good tool for creativity, it is still no substitute for the chef’s culinary intuition. ‘The molecular profile of a single ingredient is so complex that even if it has several compounds in common with another, there are still as many reasons why they won’t work together as reasons why they will.’ [9]:171

Blumenthal is also an advocate of the sous-vide cooking technique. Sous-vide, which means under vacuum in French, is a technique that entails vacuum sealing food in a special designed bag, after which it is cooked in a thermostatically controlled water bath and held at a relatively low temperature for long periods of time. The advantages of this technique are that food can easily be cooked at a precise and consistent temperature while retaining all of its juices. Since a water-bath will maintain a temperature under 100C without fluctuation, the sous-vide method is particularly useful for the low temperature, ultra–slow cooking that has long been a characteristic of Heston’s cuisine. Heston Blumenthal at Home has several low-temperature sous-vide recipes, including rack of lamb cooked at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour before being seared at a high heat, and pork belly cooked at the same temperature for 18 hours.[citation needed]

Statement on the 'New Cookery'[edit]

From the late 1990s onwards, scientific understanding, precision and technology increasingly became a characteristic of modern cuisine, often referred to as ‘molecular gastronomy’. On 10 December 2006 Blumenthal and Harold McGee published a ‘Statement on the “New Cookery”’ in the Observer in order to summarise what they saw as the central tenets of modern cuisine.[24]

Multi-sensory cooking[edit]

Heston has adopted a scientific approach to cuisine which he calls "multi-sensory cooking", arguing that eating is "one of the few activities we do that involves all of the senses simultaneously".[HAH, 25] One of the catalysts for this culinary approach was a visit at 16 to the restaurant L'Oustau de Baumanière in Provence, which at the time had three Michelin stars [25] The trip prompted a passion for cooking, above all because of "the whole multisensory experience: the sound of fountains and cicadas, the heady smell of lavender, the sight of the waiters carving lamb at the table". [ISOTP 9] One of the other main inspirations for a multi-sensory style of cooking was the lack of space and opulence at the Fat Duck. "Places like the Baumaniere had a view and a history and architecture that took its diners to a world of beauty and indulgence. The Fat Duck didn’t have any of that, so it had had to capture the diners’ imagination in a different way – taking them to the mysteries of flavour perception and multi sensory delight."[9] p.117[6]

The event that cemented Heston’s interest in this area was his creation of a crab ice cream to accompany a crab risotto. "People had difficulty accepting Crab Ice Cream, yet if it was renamed “Frozen Crab Bisque”, not only was it more acceptable, it was also considered less sweet." [9] p.71 The phenomenon was subsequently researched by Martin Yeomans and Lucy Chambers of the University of Sussex, who served test subjects a version of Blumenthal’s ice cream flavoured with smoked salmon, but told one group they would be tasting ice cream and the other that they would be tasting a frozen savoury mousse. Although all consumed identical food, those eating what they thought was savoury mousse found the flavour acceptable while those eating what they thought was ice cream found the taste salty and generally disgusting.[9] *[Yeomans, MR, Chambers, L, Blumenthal, H & Blake, A. (2008) The role of expectancy in sensory and hedonic evaluation: the case of smoked salmon ice-cream. Food Quality and Preference, 19, 565-573] For Heston, this simply confirmed the potential of an area he was already vigorously exploring. "If something as simple as a name could make a dish appear more or less salty (even though, no matter what form the dish’s presentation took, the salt level remained constant), what effect might other cues have on flavours and our appreciation of them?" [9] p. 105

Since that point, exploring the sensory potential of food – via both research and the creation of new dishes – has been an ongoing and characteristic strand of Heston’s cooking. In 2004, working on a commission for the photographer Nick Knight, he created a Delice of Chocolate containing popping candy and took the imaginative step of arranging for diners to listen on headphones to the little explosions it made as they ate – the first time such a thing had been done.[9]:106-7 With Professor Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University he has conducted several experiments into how our sense of sound can affect perception of flavour. In one experiment, test subjects consumed an oyster in two halves: the first half was accompanied by maritime sounds, the second by farmyard sounds, and they were then asked to rate pleasantness and intensity of flavour. It was found that oysters eaten while listening to seaside sounds were considered significantly more pleasant. In another, similar experiment, test subjects tasted egg-and-bacon ice cream while listening to sounds of bacon sizzling, followed by tasting it while listening to the sound of chickens clucking. The sizzling bacon sound, it was found, made the bacon flavour appear noticeably more intense.[9]:485

In Heston’s view, experiments such as these show just how far our appreciation of food is subjective rather than objective, determined in large part by information sent by the senses to the brain: ‘the ways in which we make sense of what we are eating and decide whether we like it or not depend to a large extent on memory and contrast. Memory provides us with a range of references – flavours, tastes, smells, sights, sounds, emotions – that we draw on continually as we eat.’ [9]:112 His dishes, therefore, tend to be designed to appeal to the senses in concert, and through this to trigger memories, associations and emotions. [HAH 27] Thus the Nitro-poached Green Tea and Lime Mousse on the Fat Duck menu is served with spritz of ‘lime grove’ scent from an atomiser; and the Jelly of Quail dish includes among its tableware a bed of oak moss, as well as being accompanied by a specially created scent of oak moss that is dispersed at the table by means of dry ice.

The most complete expression to date of his multisensory philosophy, however, is probably the dish ‘Sound of the Sea’, which first appeared on the Fat Duck menu in 2007. In this, ingredients with a distinctly oceanic character and flavour – dried kelp, hijiki seaweed, baby eels, razor clams, cockles, mussels, sea urchins – are fashioned into a course that has the appearance of the shore’s edge, complete with sea ‘spume’ and edible sand. It is served on a glass-topped box containing real sand, and accompanied by headphones relaying the sounds of seagulls and the sea by means of a small iPod (placed in a conch shell) and earphones. The idea, according to Blumenthal, was one ‘of creating a world, of transporting the diner – through sound, through food, through an integrated appeal to the senses – to another place’.[9]:212

Signature dishes[edit]

According to Blumenthal, his first signature dish was Triple Cooked Chips, created in 1995.[citation needed] This has since been joined by many others, including snail porridge, bacon and egg ice cream and parsnip cereal, mock turtle soup (which combines a multi-sensory experience with historical references), Meat Fruit, and his Sweet Shop petit fours.[26]

He has pioneered the use of sound as part of the dining experience with his Sound of the Sea dish where diners listen to a recording of the seaside – crashing waves with occasional sounds of distant seagulls, children's laughter and the horn of a ship, while they eat a dish of king fish, konbu cured halibut, ballotine of mackerel with 5 different seaweeds, sea jelly beans and monks beard served on "sand" made from tapioca starch, toasted Japanese breadcrumbs, miso paste and dried seaweeds.[27]

Blumenthal is also known for his use of scented dry ice. Blumenthal and his restaurant "The Fat Duck" have been credited as instigators of the bacon dessert "craze". He was preparing sweet and savoury bacon-and-egg ice cream as early as 2004, and news "about the intriguingly odd confection quickly spread through the food world."[28]

Historic Influences[edit]

Blumenthal is known for using British history in his dishes, television work, and books. He became interested in historical cooking in the late 1990s upon obtaining a copy of The Vivendier, a translation of a fifteenth-century cookery manuscript that contained many unusual recipes, such as a chicken that appears roasted but wakes up as it is served. He said "I’d had little idea the cooking of the past could be so playful, audacious and creative."[29]

Following this, he attended an Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery where he met the food historians Marc Meltonville and Richard Fitch, who work at Hampton Court. Later he met a third food historian, Ivan Day and, in consultation with these three, began developing dishes inspired by recipes in historical British cookbooks. The first completed dish based on a historic recipe was Quaking Pudding, which is now on the menu at the Hinds Head. This was followed by Beef Royal and Chocolate Wine, which featured on the Fat Duck menu. The opening of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal presented him with far greater scope for historical cooking, and its menu is composed solely of dishes inspired by the recipes of the past. His 2013 book Historic Heston is a collection of historical recipes that have appeared on the menus of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the Fat Duck and the Hinds Head.


Blumenthal has collaborated with a number of scientists, including:

  • Professor Peter Barham, professor in Physics at Bristol University and author of the book The Science of Cooking
  • Professor Tony Blake, former vice-president of research at the Swiss flavour and fragrance company Firmenich
  • Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford, with whom he collaborated in experiments with the use of headphones during eating
  • Professor Andy Taylor at the University of Nottingham with whom Blumenthal has sponsored a PhD studentship
  • Professors Don Mottram and Margot Gosney of the University of Reading, which in 2006 awarded Blumenthal an honorary degree.

Blumenthal is also a mentor for the British Airways Great Britons Programme, and mentored an up-and-coming chef to produce a dish served on board flights in the run up to the London 2012 Games.

In 2009, for a private party held during Ascot week, he was invited to cook a meal for the Queen at Windsor Castle. The menu included baked salmon, strawberry gateau and a starter composed to look like a bowl of fruit that in fact turned out to be offal and sweetbreads.[30] He was subsequently selected to provide the picnic meal for participants in Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations,[31] and was a guest in the Royal Box at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert in June 2012.[32]

Honorary degrees and recognition[edit]

Blumenthal holds multiple honorary degrees in recognition of his scientific approach to cooking. In January 2006, he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen in the New Years Honours List for his services to British Gastronomy.[33]

In July 2006, Blumenthal was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Reading University in recognition of his unique scientific approach to food and long-standing relationship with the University’s School of Food Biosciences.[34] Also in July 2006, Blumenthal was the first chef to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Society of Chemistry.[35] Blumenthal received an honorary Master of Science from Bristol University in 2007.[36]

In December 2013, Blumenthal was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of London, the honour recognises his pioneering research and achievements in his field.[37]

Coat of arms[edit]

In June 2013, the College of Arms granted Blumenthal a personal coat of arms.[38]

Personal awards[edit]

  • Honorary Doctor of Science degree, awarded by the University of West London.[39]
  • GQ Chef of the Year - GQ Man of the Year Awards 2010/2011[40]
  • Trophy Gourmand - Austria 2010 [41]
  • GQ Personality of the year - GQ Glenfiddich Awards 2007
  • Chef's choice award - San Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurant Awards April 2007 [42]
  • Honorary Royal Society of Chemistry Fellowship for "… distinguished person whose activities have been of significant development to the chemical community.." - July 2006 [35]
  • Honorary Doctor of Science degree awarded by Reading University for recognition for his unique scientific approach to food and long-standing relationship with the University’s School of Food Biosciences - Summer graduation ceremony July 2006[43]
  • Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen - January 2006 New Years Honours List[44]
  • GQ Magazine Chef of the Year - GQ Magazine Man of the Year awards 2004 [41]
  • Chef of the Year - Good Food Guide, 2001
  • Catey Awards Restaurateur of the year Award - Caterer & Hotelkeeper Magazine 2003
  • Best Restaurant of the Year Award - Decanter Magazine, 1998
  • Food & Wine Personality of the Year Award - GQ Magazine, Glenfiddich Awards 2004
  • AA Guide chef’s chef of the year Award - AA Guide Publications 2002

Television and book awards[edit]

  • The Guild of Food Writers Awards 2014 - Historic Heston book, Heston and his ghost writer, Pascal Cariss won the prestigious award for Work on British Food.
  • BAFTA nomination in the Features category for "FEAST" - British Academy Television Awards 2010
  • The Features and Lifestyle Award for Heston's Victorian Feast - The Royal Television Society Awards 2009
  • Food Book of the Year for The Big Fat Duck Cookbook - Guild of Food Writers Awards 2009
  • Winner of Design and Production Award for The Big Fat Duck Cookbook - British Book Industry Awards 2009
  • Winner of Photography Award for The Big Fat Duck Cookbook - James Beard Foundation Awards 2009
  • Winner of Design Award for The Big Fat Duck Cookbook - International Association of Culinary Professionals Awards 2009
  • BAFTA nomination in the Features category for "Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection"- British Academy Television Awards 2008
  • Best Cookbook of the year Worldwide for Family Food "a new approach to cooking" - Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2004
  • Best Children Cookbook for Family Food "a new approach to cooking" - Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2004
  • Best Production "Heston Blumenthal – In Search of Perfection" BBC2 - GQ Glenfiddich Awards 2007

Restaurant awards[edit]

Heston's restaurants The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal have received many awards, including "Best Restaurant in the World".[45]


  • Family Food: A New Approach to Cooking (2005)
  • In Search of Perfection (2006)
  • Further Adventures in Search of Perfection (2007)
  • The Fat Duck Cookbook (2008)
  • Total Perfection:In Search of Total Perfection (2009)
  • Heston's Fantastical Feasts (2010)
  • Heston Blumenthal At Home (2011)
  • Historic Heston (2013) [46]

As well as writing books, Blumenthal has written columns for The Guardian, T2, The Times and GQ. Along with scientists on the faculty of Reading University, he had co-written an academic paper on the taste and flavour of tomatoes called "Differences in Glutamic Acid and 5'-Ribonucleotide Contents between Flesh and Pulp of Tomatoes and the Relationship with Umami Taste" [47]


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External links[edit]