Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Who Needs Perfection? the Fat Duck Would Be Thrilling, Says Nicholas Clee-But the Local Tratt Will Be More Fun

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Who Needs Perfection? the Fat Duck Would Be Thrilling, Says Nicholas Clee-But the Local Tratt Will Be More Fun

Article excerpt

Hats off to Hugh Briss, an Amazon reviewer of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection. Briss actually tried, as the book had recommended, blowtorching a steak and pre-cooking it in the oven for 18 hours on low heat. Alas, he confesses: "This just did not work for me and the steak ended up far too black and chewy." He also got out his vacuum cleaner and a bag, and used them to aerate some chocolate for a Black Forest gateau. The machine is "hard to clean afterwards", Briss cautions. He is a better man than I.

Blumenthal introduces his BBC2 series (which the book accompanies) by saying that he wants us to try his techniques at home. So far, the only one I have tackled is poaching sausages before frying them. It worked fine--but no better than the slow-frying I normally practise. Maybe my water was hotter than the 65[pounds sterling]C that Blumenthal specified. I do not have the appropriate thermometer; and even if I did have one, I'm not sure that I would have been able to maintain such a temperature.

I am not knocking Blumenthal. He is an engaging person with an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity. The food at his three-star restaurant, the Fat Duck, is by all accounts a wonderful advertisement for his extraordinary, painstaking techniques. However, his cooking techniques are better suited to his own kitchen and skills than to mine.

What I feel after watching his programme is, albeit to a heightened degree, what I feel when watching all celebrity chefs, or when reading their books or newspaper columns. …

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