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Magic Water!


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At least he tries to be original and he doesn't just cook by numbers like alot of other British chefs.

I think you'll find that is exactly what he does, temperatures, pressure, time etc. etc. All designed to give exacting results every time :raz: (That's not knocking him by the way)

Another way it could be described is taking the risk out of service or consistancy,

I totally agree, I was just cracking a joke on the "cooking by numbers" pun.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I'm sure that is the reason behind alot of sous-vide chicanery, it's bugger all to do with taste, unfortunately it just easier for a kitchen to cope with versus cooking it on the hob. Without opening a can of worms, most meat i get cooked sous vide would have been better in a pan,  SV is not for the customers benefit.

In many cases this is true*. It is a compromise, between something better but potentially risky and something lesser but almost entirely consistent.

SV in top kitchens shows that the fear of making mistakes outweighs the desire to attempt the best.

The result is about as interesting as watching two boxers who won't punch in case they get hit with a counter-punch.

*Judiciously used, there are some preparations that can be improved by SV, but, as you point out, it doesn't follow that this holds for everything.

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I'm a bit dim, so even after reading both this thread and our previous knockaround of the subject can't quite pin down where the specific gripe against Heston starts and ends. Moreover, every article I read about similar-minded people (Wylie Dufresne, Grant Achatz, Eben Freeman) mention that they "provoke fierce debate" or whatever, without really explaining why. So I'd appreciate if one of the anti-Heston lobby could talk me though which of these statements (if any) comes closest to their own feelings, and why my impressions are wrong.

1) He has achieved unearned acclaim by using showmanship to distract from some fundamental lack of ability.

If we're saying that HB is a below-par cook, then I'll have to admit that my palate isn't refined enough to know where The Fat Duck is failing. Some dishes taste better than others, but I thought that down to personal taste rather than faulty execution. However, just because I can't see the blind spot doesn't mean that one can't exist; perhaps he does gritty macaroni cheese, or puts pineapple in his potato salad.

However, if we're arguing that The Fat Duck doesn't deserve to be a M3* and listed among the world's best restaurants: who honestly cares? As we point out every time one of these lists is published: it's arbiary, dumb and futile to compare like with unlike.

Is Fat Duck a better restaurant than, for example, St John? You may as well ask if Alton Towers is better than the V&A. And is Fat Duck worthy of more plaudits than Le Garvoche? Is On The Waterfront is more worthy of Oscars than Taxi Driver? Seriously: who beyond the pedants and trainspotters gives a shit?

2) His methods are all show, not intended improve the end product.

When I was six, I was taken to a restaurant where they served chicken kiev with a sparkler in it. The firework may have added nothing to the dish itself, but the sight of it crossing the restaurant floor made me so excited I nearly peed my pants.

As a wise poster has already noted, I'm a superficial type. When analysed objectively, the most extreme of Heston's ideas amount to little more than a chicken with a sparkler in it. Some may think the fireworks detract from, rather than add to the dish - and to them I can only advise that the Fat Duck is not their thing. But if little bits of theatre can go any way to channeling the inner six-year-old, I can't see the problem.

3) The persona of the self-trained boffin cook is a cynical ruse, and the menu is little more than a list of publicity stunts required to feed his own ego and/or bank balance.

I think we can probably assume that young Heston, from the family Blumenthal, didn't fight his way out of the ghetto with a nickel electrobath and a dream. The stories of his pre-three poverty, while probably founded on truth, will have been beaten out of all recognition by his flak. Is this disengenuous? Possibly. Is it lower than shilling stock cubes on reality TV or claiming falsely to have burnt your bollocks on a gas stove? Probably not.

Likewise some of the dish publicity: the iPod seagulls, the magic water, etc. Of course these gimmicks are press-release friendly. But that doesn't equate to being press-release gimmicks. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, the out-there theatrics were included in the Fat Duck experience long before the the press caught on. In fact, Heston himself had very little publicity before Michelin gave him the full set. If it's all an ego trip, he's been playing the long game.

Just because his enthusiastic amateur professor stylings are media friendly, it's too much of a jump to claim they have been machine tooled that way.

4) He's a bad role model as his techniques suggest you need fripperies to achieve greatness.

I never really get this argument. The catering industry has a long tradition of over-reaching and under-achieving, and it'll continue to happen no matter who the role models are. I can name you a dozen restaurants where there's foam aplenty in kitchens that would struggle to turn out an omlette; is that the fault of Ferran Adrià, or of a chef who has tried to shortcut greatness? Likewise, is Carême somehow responsible for the party packs of frozen vol-au-vents available at Iceland?

It seems unduly harsh to blame a ship for the flotsam in its wake.

It also ignores the potential for good influence. Beyond the liquid nitrogen and the crowd-pleasing silliness, there does seem to be Heston-influenced a movement towards people becoming interested in how cooking actually works. For example, Harold McGee is now available in the cookery section my local Books Etc, which certainly wasn't true ten years ago. Anyone interested in food must surely consider this a good thing.

To reiterate: I've no interest in adding to the fight. I'm just trying to understand why the issue of Heston and the wider world of theme-park food generates such heat. And - as the wise posters of this board surely can't be arguing just for the perverse sake of it - I'll be indebted to anyone highlighting a cogent argument not covered by the four options above.


Edited by naebody (log)
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