Heston Blumenthal is the modern master of the truly fantastical. His restaurant, The Fat Duck, is regularly rated as one of the top eateries in the world. Specialising in molecular gastronomy, he creates dishes that both entice and confound the senses. Do you have a yen for lickable wallpaper that tastes like sausages? Or perhaps spam fritters made with foie gras and black truffles? Then Heston is definitely your man!
Heston’s Fantastical Feasts tells the story behind the six meals that make up the second television series of Heston’s Feasts. They are ‘A Fairy Tale Feast’, ‘A Gothic Horror Feast’, ‘A Titanic Feast’, ‘A Chocolate Factory Feast’, ‘A Seventies Feast’, and ‘An Eighties Feast’.
The creative process for each of these is outlined in detail and many of the recipes (although not all) are provided. However this is not a recipe book in any conventional sense of the word as the techniques and equipment used are well beyond the reach of most home chefs. But it is a fascinating insight into the history of food and there are numerous quirky facts to absorb the reader –from the Marquis de Sade’s alleged sweet tooth to the taste of fried leeches (which are, apparently, not very nice).
It is obvious that Blumenthal enjoys his work and an infectious enthusiasm permeates his writing. It is very much a first person account of his own inventiveness and it is certainly ‘warts and all’, with chronicles of both failure and success. As with the first television series, I found myself both repelled and entranced in equal measures. There are some things that made me feel queasy and ultimately I like the food I eat to actually look like what it is (not , for example, ice cream disguised mash potato).
But this personal preference in no way detracts from what is a fascinating read. It has certainly encouraged me to think again about how I present the food I cook and how I can develop and enhance the sensory theatre of my dining table.
Entirely self-taught, Heston Blumenthal is one of the star chefs of his generation. In 2004 he won the coveted three Michelin stars in near-record time for his restaurant The Fat Duck, which has twice been voted the Best Restaurant in the World by an international panel of 500 experts. In 2006 he was awarded an OBE. He lives in Berkshire with his wife and three children.
The first series of Heston’s Feasts screened on SBS in 2009, Heston’s Fantastical Feasts is the book companion to the second series which begins this week. More information can be found at http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/hestonsfeasts/watchonline/page/i/1/show/hestonsfeasts