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MobyP

The Fat Duck 2004

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At lunch the other day in the Fat Duck our server let slip that Heston Blumenthal has bought the next door pub, the Hind's Head Hotel, which has got to be ten times the size of the Fat Duck. No idea what he plans to do with it, but I'm sure that it will involve guest rooms à la Waterside.

Lunch was poor, to be honest. Where does this reputation for hyper-creativity come from? Well, not from the dining room, apart from one or two twists and additions he hasn't changed the menu in 3 years! Well, actually, he has. The prices have gone up since last autumn by about 40%!

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Were you there last Autumn as well, or was this the first time you'd been? I'm glad you got to try it.

I can't remember the prices we paid this spring, but I seem to remember it was in line with what Ramsay was charging - generally below both Waterside and Gavroche (neither of which I've tried), and certainly far beneath the standard three-star prices in France for what it (of course) exceptionally labour intensive food (as all food at that level is. And yes, it's obviously silly to compare prices defined by criteria like 3 michelin stars, but most other criteria seem even more arbitrary).

Is Heston's reputation for hyper-creativity? In the standard sense of haute-cuisine, I would agree that that might be inaccurate. The Troisgros had Salmon with Sorrel sauce; Heston has snail porridge or sardines on buttered toast ice cream. Or white chocolate with caviar. But, then again, I'm not sure I'd be able to recognise hyper-creativity if I came across it, as this surely has something to do with context, and I have only been eating seriously for a few years now. I was far more shocked and moved at Gagnaire's creativity than by Blumenthal's. Still, I found the Fat Duck unusual and delicious.

I think rather what interests people and other gourmands and chefs has been two things: his reassessment of what preconceptions we bring to the meal, and exposing those to you as a diner (so tastes, textures, sensual illusions), and his reworking of obscure cooking techniques into their quantum components - in a wizard's apprentice sharing secrets kind-of-way.

Do you want to go into particular dishes? Did you have the tasting menu, or alc?? Were there any courses that you found interesting?


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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The train ride from Paddington station to Maidenhead took all of two seconds. I admit a certain sense of excitment on my part that may have played an important role in what I am about to write, throwing objectivism almost entirely out the door. Back in Chicago I was burned out and now I am exploring to refill and see new things. I had just visited some friends in Copenhagen that I had met a couple months ago while I was staging at Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian. Arzak closes for two weeks before beginning the summer session, so this was my chance to experience more. The executive chef at The Paul in Copenhagen, Paul Cunningham, spoke highly of the things they are doing at The Fat Duck. He, himself, had just received his first Michelin star. So, his excitement was contagious. I thought that this would be a great finale before I made my way back to the kitchen in Spain.

The room. The front doors advertising Heston Blumenthal's ability to serve alcoholic beverages on the premises opens directly into the dining room. I was greeted and seated, table for one. On the table is a questionnaire inviting the guests to participate in the creative process. The questionnaire explains how one of his signature dishes, Sardine Ice Cream on Toast, was conceived. It was a memory from his youth.

I am just a poor stage, I explain to the sommelier, but I am getting the tasting menu and would like some non-budget breaking wines to accompany, so if you would choose for me, I would much appreciate it. We started with a glass of Jaquesson Cuvee 728, sparkly.

I eat a little differently. The first think I pay attention to is the atmosphere, how it makes me feel. If I walk out of place feeling like I had just experience something good, then I am happy. I will look over my notes and try to remember what stood out that contributed to this feeling of gratification. I do not try and pick apart technique, flavor combinations, or intention. That only happens when I feel like I had been duped.

Stand outs:

1. First "course": Liquid Nitrogen Tea, Lime and Vodka Chiffon. It is a novelty. An infusion of tea, lime and vodka is mixed with egg whites and put into a chiffon canister (refillable whip cream container). At the table, the waiter explains that the Liquid Nitrogen in the bucket, here, rests at minus crazy below zero. He proceeds to pump an egg-sized amount onto a spoon and drops the chiffon into the liquid nitrogen. He turns the chiffon as it begins to freeze. The intense cold acts so quickly, "cooking" the chiffon. A crust forms. I am instructed to place the entire frozen chiffon in my mouth and go at it.

I know that there is no real danger. The Liquid nitrogen instantly transfers into gas as its temperature rises leaving no risk of consumption. The chiffon itself would not freeze to the sensitive membranes of my mouth, recalling the dreaded triple dog dare in "A Christmas Story." But I am afraid as I jam the smokingly cold item into my mouth. It has a freezer burned ice cream feel. Then, I think about a piece of styrofoam and a marshmellow having a child. The crust breaks releasing the liquid leaving a creamy lime taste that is cleaned up by the vodka. Great novelty item, I think.

2. Second "course": Orange and Beet Root Jelly. It's jello. One is orange and one is red. I taste the orange. It completely lacks acid, sweetness or any markings of an orange. Don't even try it, I think. The red one is the orange, blood orange to be exact. The Orange one is Golden Beet. It is not meant to be sarcastic, the waiter explains. But, I get it...I feel that I truely understand.

The Chef is playing...not with his guest's, but with their assumptions. Walking into this place, I had loads of assumptions. He thinks he is an artist. He is just trying to promote a novelty that has no real backbone. He is trying too hard to be original. But now, I understand. The chef is serious about what he is doing, so serious that he can play around a little. I am delighted. Thank you, Mr. Blumenthal for being passionate about your work, but still have the ability to not take yourself so seriously.

Think about the hype: food science, space food, Michelin stars...Think about the pressures to deliver. And he delivers jello. This sets the tone for me, I am a bit odd I admit, but I enjoy this and am looking forward to the next "courses."

3. Fourth "course": Pommery Grain Mustard Sorbet in Red Cabbage Gazpacho. excellent dish. The gazpacho is cool and is garnished with micro-brunoise of cucumbers. The Mustard Sorbet is what it advertises and melts slowly into the Gazpacho. The combination is exactly that, they melt together. The waiter explains that Red Cabbage naturally contains a large amount of mustard oils, hence the mustard sorbet. Logical. I certainly wouldn't have thought about it. Sometimes I wonder why it is called, "common sense," when it is not so common.

4. Eighth "course": Licorice poached Salmon. I hate licorice. The flavor of it makes me gag. Maybe I am naive, but I decide to trust the chef's instincts and eat it anyway. The godawful licorice jel encases the perfectly poached salmon. On the plate are two lines of Vanilla Mayonnaise, more Licorice liquid drops, individual cells of Grapefruit (I, being a so-called cook, think about the poor sap who had to peal a grapefruit, remove the membrane around one of its supremes and proceed to pick it apart, individual cell by cell--that would be my job, most likely...) and whole Coridander Seeds. The waiter shaves some fresh licorice onto the plate. Great, I think.

This is not an opinion changing experience. I still cannot stand licorice, but the combinations made it tolerable. The fatty sweet vanilla mayonnaise brought out the natural sweetness of the salmon, while muting the godforsaken licorice flavor. The whole Coriander was my favorite part, which added depth and earthiness to the licorice (still don't like licorice, I was just impressed with how the whole Coridander intensified the sensations, making my experience that much more painful). The Grapefruit, for me, was a coloring agent and less of a taste objective having the same color as the bright pink Salmon, but it did pop some freshness into my mouth. Thanks.

I'm going to wrap it up now, since I am sitting in an Internet Cafe that is just about to close. I'm not that well prepared I admit. I should have written the whole thing out on my computer at home and just copied it onto the posting site. But, I like to fly with my memory. It seems more real that way.

All in all, an amazing experience and highly recommended. The service was outstanding, as well as the wines that matched my dinner, as well as the bill. So outstanding, in fact, I will not return, unless you are paying, of course. Even if I could afford it, I wouldn't be able to afford it. If you get my meaning.


success is the ability to move from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. churchill

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Fat Duck gossip. The pub they bought next door will continue as a pub but will give them more prepatation space. New a la carte menu in 2 weeks according to the Maitre d. I went for the first time last week and had all of Heston's greatest hits. For me it is a very British take on the MG approach using nostalgia and humour as a frame for fantastic cooking. I had a great time.


Adrian York

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More Fat Duck gossip. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Heston says that his menu at the Hinds Head will be old fashioned English - with dishes like steak and kidney pudding, treacle tart and fruit cobblers. Contracts have been exchanged but he has yet to finalise.

Apparently.

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Sounds like the perfect setting for Liver and Lager at last.

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I've seen on the FD site that they have an option to match wines with their tasting menu for 50 pounds per person (where the hell is the pound character in a Spanish keyboard?).

I was wondering if anyone has recently gone through this option. Are the wines worth it?


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I remember the wine matching as a bit hit or miss. Sorry - I don't have details.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Given the cost of buying at least 2 different bottles to match the courses of the tasting menu together with a dessert wine I would say that the matching wines are a good choice although I doubt their total value would actually reach 50 pounds individually. The sommelier is excellent and always has an interesting choice of wines in the match and usually wines which are lesser known. if dining in a larger group it is easy to choose from the list but for 2 customers, go with the matching wines and don't forget the great sherry list although a fino is often served as the first wine anyway.

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nimzo, I guess I have to thank you for the early immersion into UK prices. Do you think that we won't be able to find a couple of good (very good, I'd say) bottles for about 100 pounds (that is around 150€, isn't it?)? I don't intend to find Montrachet at 30€, but ...

I'll take a look to the Sherries, but knowing the price of them in Spain will give me a hard time. :wink:

I'll have a talk with the sommelier (thanks for bringing that up, nimzo), and that with a look into the wine list will make the call.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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From what I remember the prices on the list on the website are out of date and you could add a few pounds to every bottle. The value is very much to be found in the wines of south-west France and the Languedoc, an area which Heston knows very well, and I would be tempted to look here for a choice of a couple of bottles which won't break the bank such as a Mas Jullien or a Grange des Peres.There is a great selection of Condrieu to suit all pockets and the Cotat Sancerres are beautiful wines in my opinion, especially if there is any of the special cuvee left. The real value in comparitive terms is in the cult Napa cabernets which are on strict allcation but which are sold at a relatively low price on the proviso that they are not sold to customers unopened and are consumed on the premises.That said, a bottle of Harlan is still hugely expensive but the Turley zinfandels are great given their retail prices in the UK and USA.

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Went to the FatDuck on Tuesday evening for my first time, and had a very enjoyable meal with my gf. We had a glass of champagne to start the evening off with, then both chose the tasting menu paired with the wine.

Nitro-Green Tea and Lime Mousse

Orange and Beetroot Gelee

Fresh Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly, Horseradish Cream, Lavender

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho

Jelly of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait of Foie Gras

SNAIL PORRIDGE - Jabugo Ham, Shaved Fennel

ROAST FOIS GRAS - Chamomile, Almond Fluid Gel, Cherry and Amaretto Jelly

SARDINE ON TOAST SORBET - Ballotine of macerral "invertebrate", Marinated dycon and Salmon Eggs

SALMON POACHED IN LIQUORICE - Asparagus, Pink Grape Fruit, "Manni" Olive Oil

SWEETBREAD COOKED IN SALT CRUST WITH HAY - Crusted with Pollen, Celeraic Puree

White Chocolate and Caviar

Mrs Marshall's Maragaret Cornet

Pine Sherbert Dib Dab

MANGO AND DOUGLASS FIR PUREE - Bavarois of Lychee and Mango, Blackcurrant Sorbet

Orange and Carrot Tuile, Bavarois of Basil, Beetroot Jelly

SMOKED BACON AND EGG ICE-CREAM - Pain Perdu and Tea Gelee

Leather, Oak, Pine and Mint Chocolate

Praline Rose Tartlet

In there somewhere we did have the parsnip flakes with milk.

Even though it has been a while since someone on here has wrote the whole of the tasting menu out you will see that it has rairly changed which I was a little shocked and disappointed with, therefore I have not described everyone in detail.

The place wasn't full, but it had a really nice "buzzy" atmosphere, and the waiters/resses performing like a class act, always on hand to answer questions and to ease us through nearly 5 hours of Molecular Gastronamy.

All this did come at a price though......

£348 before a 12.5% optional service charge was added.

My first taste of a Michelin 3* establishment was interesting to say the least as anyone who has attended will well know!!


I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'

Tommy Cooper

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We arrived to The Fat Duck’s door half an hour earlier than reserved. The prospect wasn’t too encouraging: a van in the front door was unloading its cargo of liquid nitrogen or whatever they actually use. That immediately rang an alarm bell in my head, soon to be dismissed. After crossing the door, we were instantly welcomed by Didier Fertilati, the maître who guided and helped us throughout the meal. A couple of glasses of light and fresh Champagne were served on the house. Since the beginning, a sense of joy and fun could be sensed.

It was clear that we were going to order the tasting menu, the only question remaining was whether to have the selection of wines by the glass or ordering a couple of bottles from the wine list. Following nimzo’s advice, a conversation with the sommelier quickly made us to decide in favour of the selection by the glass, which rendered a glorious and unanticipated peak in the salmon poached with liquorice and the Allegrini La Grola 2000. So, after the salted butter made with non-pasteurized milk arrived to our table, the symphony started:

  1. Snacks:
    • Nitro-green tea and lime mousse
    • Fresh oyster, passion fruit jelly, horseradish cream, lavender and lindi pepper tuile
    • Pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gazpacho, brunoise of cucumber
    • Pea puree, jelly of quail, langoustine cream, parfait of foie gras
    • Black truffle and oak toast
    • Fino Puerto Lustau, Sherry Spain

[*]Snail Porridge

  • Jabugo Ham, shaved fennel
  • 2001 Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Brundlmayer (Austria)

[*]Roast Foie Gras

  • Chamomile, almond, cherry and amaretto jelly
  • 2002 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Domaine de La Janasse (Rhone Valley)

[*]Sardine on toast sorbet

  • Ballotine of mackerel « invertebrate », marinated dycon and salmon eggs.
  • 2002 Riesling Gold-Quadra, S. Kuntz, Mosel (Germany)

[*]Salmon poached with liquorice

  • Asparagus, pink grape fruit, “Manni” olive oil
  • 2000 La Grola Allegrini I.G.T. Veronese (Italy)

[*]Poached Breast of Anjou pigeo, pancetta

  • Pastilla of its legs, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices
  • 2000 Domaine de la Suffrene Cuvée des Lauves

[*]Pre-desserts :

  • White chocolate and caviar
  • Mrs. Marshall’s Margaret cornet
  • Pine sherbet dib dab

[*]Mango and douglas fir puree

  • Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly, blackcurrant sorbet
  • 1989 Riesling Beerenauslese, Piesporter Goldtropchen Von Kesselstatt, Mosel (Germany)

[*]Orange and carrot tuile, bavarois of basil, beetroot jelly

[*]Macerated Mara des Bois

  • Black olive puree, pistachio scrambled egg, parmesan
  • 2000 Opitz One, W. Opitz, Neusiedlersee (Austria)

[*]Mignardis:

  • Delice of chocolate
  • Leather, oak, tobacco and mint chocolate
  • Praline rose tartlet

Having being served a nitro caipirinha cocktail at El Bulli a couple of weeks before, we couldn’t avoid to smile while Didier started the preparations for the nitro-green tea. We felt obliged to explain this to him, which led us to a brief conversation about how Albert Adrià spent some time at The Fat Duck and incorporated this technique into El Bulli’s repertoire. However, this dish had techniques both from Ferrán Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. Yes, the substance which was about to be immersed in the liquid nitrogen was nothing but a foam. After the process, the result was far more interesting than El Bulli’s caipirinha: whereas at El Bulli once the fog lifted what remained was simply an iced caipirinha which makes you question if the dish’s main point was the show of making it, at The Fat Duck the final result was a thin and delicate crust containing the now liquefied foam. Taken in a single bite, it acted as a natural palate cleanser, as Didier explained.

Since it looks like the menu has been described by others before me, I won’t go through a full blown dish by dish description. I’d rather focus on what I enjoyed the least (just a couple of dishes, one of them a snack) and what I consider the best dishes of the meal.

The least successful proposals presented to us, were the “Pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gazpacho, brunoise of cucumber” and the “Snail porridge”. Perhaps being a Spaniard limits the variation range you’re able to admit in a gazpacho, which certainly excludes the mustard ice cream. Though gazpacho usually is a theme which cooks in Spain tend to interpret in many ways (adding strawberries, kippers, playing with temperature contrasts and pushing the envelope of what gazpacho is), I found the combination of flavours too odd to me.

Regarding the “Snail porridge”, several factors contributed to my questioning of this dish. One of them and not the smallest one was that I had just finished my trip to the Empordà where I had plenty of snails dishes cooked in traditional ways where the snails is the main and noticeable ingredient (see On snails for more info). So when I almost couldn’t see the snails or notice them in the mouth, so finely chopped and scarce they were, and their taste was so subtle according to my parameters of how a snail taste, my expectations weren’t met. I talked about this specific point with the maître, who being French understood it perfectly well. He explained to me that local clients are not especially familiar with or fond of snails and having more snails or to chop them in a coarser way would result in a rejection of this dish by many people. The other barrier that prevented me from fully enjoying the dish was the porridge part of it. I realize that the chef was playing here with familiar themes for Britons but since the base of the variation was almost unknown to me I couldn’t fully get it. Neither from a perspective based purely on taste was a dish I would qualify as great.

Nonetheless, these two dishes did not prevent us from having one of our best meals ever. Genial ideas like the “Black truffle and oak toast”, one of the most well thought and conceived dishes I’ve ever found. A film made with oak essence (no, it wasn’t a reduction of one of these international wines) which prepares your tongue for the earthy and forest’s tastes to come: a paste of the summer truffle, tuber aestivium, generously spread over a thin toast. Or the “Salmon poached with liquorice” with Allegrini’s La Grola, a harmony of wine and food made in heaven with liquorice’s notes from the wine and the jelly which covered the salmon getting reinforced as you sip and bite.

The service was attentive and cordial, ready to anticipate every need we had. A special mention shall be made of the young sommelier who handled the wine service: he displayed an enthusiasm and passion about what he was doing that was unavoidably contagious. All the staff contributed to make a most enjoyable meal which I rank among the best I’ve ever had.

When we left, Didier handed us his business card just in case we needed some more information. The nitro man and his van had vanished.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Interesting point about the snails. For my palate, they were sized perfectly, in accordance with the dish - but they're a rare part of my diet, so perhaps I'm one of those he was alluding to.

I also thought the Salmon was a superb dish, in conception and execution.

My main problem with the Fat Duck, which I couldn't put my finger on until a few months after, was how the meal stayed in the memory. As almost every dish had been cooked at a low temperature, or sous vide, there was a luke warmness to it all (except the ice cream). Of Gagnaire, or Ducasse, or L'Ambroisie, or Ramsey, I couldn't tell you how hot the food was. But with the Fat Duck, there was a sense of rush to the eating. Even with the salmon, after several bites, I remember the dish was losing heat quickly, and I felt rushed by its cooling to finish it before it became cold.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Moby, I'm afraid you're one of those he was alluding too. :biggrin:

I did not feel rushed at all while we were at The Fat Duck and I believe we were the last persons to leave (but probably the last to arrive also). Nevertheless, we Spaniards are known for being fast eating our meals, something that often puzzles people from abroad when eating in Spain. This, I'm sure of it, account for many of the issues regarding service in Spain that have often came up in the Spain & Portugal forum.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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You understand that I didn't feel rushed by the staff or place, but in the nature of so much of the cooking being luke-warm, and thus almost cold by the time I finished a dish.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I couldn't face the snails so they servered a veggie option substituting parsnips but with less garlic. When the dishes arrive, because you couldn't see the bugs & was tempted to try a wee bit. Preferred the parsnip version by a mile.

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Having been to the Fat Duck a few occasions now, and luckily enough to do a few days working with them back in January, I personally have found both food and service worthy of all awards.

I guess I am just a bit lucky, because other cooks I have recommended have said service was lacklustre, but Hestons oddities more than made up for it. Also everyone warned me about the service at chapter one, but when I got there the whole experience was faultless, and probably only got better service at Sketch (hardly surprising when there were 8 waiters and 10 guests)

Lots of comments lately regarding the inability to eat the snails, Me personally think this dish comes second only to the sardine on toast sorbet, which is probably one of the cleverest tricks on the tongue I have eaten to date. However my wife Sally can't abide the thought of eating creepy crawlies or garden pests simlpy asked Didier for something different and he gave her a small choice of others, not just the veggie option.

Moby P, I understand where you are coming from with the whole warmth thing, however if you slightly overdo this kind of thing, the whole effect is buggered, they do flash the plates before sending but have to be careful not to toughen up the collagen in the meat.(see Discovery channels kitchen chemistry website if you want more sciency info thats easy to digest).


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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Alex, welcome to eGullet. I hope you'll tell us more about working in the kitchen.

As I said above, I thought the food was fantastic, in execution and presentation - it was only the temp thing that was down side.

And yes - I remember the taste of melted butter and toasted brown bread coming through in that ice cream. Very funny, and quite delicious.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Alex, welcome to eGullet. I hope you'll tell us more about working in the kitchen.

ok then.

basically it's a normal working kitchen, started my first day shaving fennel on a mandolin, vac packing, cooking, pureeing. this was for the base to the fennel veloute with sea urchins on the then set lunch menu. Spent a large amount of time working on the garnish as it's very central and you can keep a good eye on what is going on, no mean feat. (those who have seen the kitchen will understand 11 chefs at one time in that space, an achievment in itself). What was very noticeable was that the whole team there is behind each other, everyone was extremely busy (they had just got the 3 star), but no real signs of being dans la merde, as in most kitchens. Don't get me wrong there is an extreme amount of work to be done to be ready for each service, but everyone had their Mis en Place well organised.

Other fantastically interesting jobs were, picking boxes of parsley, some for the snail porridge and some for the langoustine lasagne, picking a huge bucket of small morels (thanks Jock), for the caramel on the bacon and egg ice cream.

During service I was obviously relegated to a mere watcher, granted I was the kitchens runner during this point, a bit of a culture shock for a London sous chef, prepping asparagus for the Salmon wrapped in licorice, vac packing and the like, but spent most of the service either getting in the way or bombarding Mr Blumenthal or Ashley (head chef) with questions and comments. to which they were extremely accomodating. Heston was and is extremely forthcoming with his thoughts both past and future. you'll find no secrets hidden here. I also took a little time to copy down some favourite recipes, inbetween being given little titbits to eat constantly as service progressed, did I mention the sardine sorbet? this I robbed on a regular basis.

At the end of my final service (boo), after a lengthy chat with Heston, he kindly signed "Family Food" for me wishing me luck with the degree course I am pursuing. I am attempting an undergraduate course with the Open University at the moment in molecular science, with the long term aim of being able to get even more from our food. Not as plain sailing as I thought it might be though, and am posting this trying to put off my final paper which is due next week.

Should anyone get the opportunity to work there then jump at it, beware though the waiting list for starges is pretty huge, and I know they like people where possible to do 1 month, so you can benefit from the whole experience. Me I am probably resigned to just eating there as often as my credit cards will allow, but will keep in touch to try and have another go next year.

alex


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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Just wandering Alex if you got paid for the amazing privalege of working at the FD?

So is there a way of anyone getting into the kitchen or did u "know someone"? I'd love to be able to do that, and help create fantasy food.


I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'

Tommy Cooper

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I've never been paid for any starges that I've done nor ever heard of it, after all you are only there a couple of days and there to grab as much inspiration as possible. I know Ashley, the head chef and my chef knows Heston so I did what is known as an associated starge, however they get many applicants for month long positions there from all sorts, and they consider each application. however a month is a long time to take out of your life especially if you have the wife and kids in tow.

however it is to be noted that with such limited space they have to stricktly control the amount of people who can work there, baring in mind that since the third star they are quite full for every service.

one point to note as I mentioned before, it's a normal kitchen, fantastic atmosphere and team, but ultimately most of your day is spent doing MEP in the normal fashion, with the exeption of a few ingredients such as multidextrin, trehalose, you would be peeling asparagus and sweetbreads.

If you apply post as to how you get on

Alex.


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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Great article in today's LA Times by David Shaw - going into some depth about the chemistry behind the thinking and so on.

Need to register at www.latimes.com and the registration process is a bit of a hassle...but worth it.

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I hear that The Fat Duck have launched a new/revised degustation menu - yet to appear on their website. Have not checked though so may be based on a mis-understanding ??? Also on the gossip front....Jean-Luc Naret (Head of Michelin) alledgedly visited the Fat Duck last week...Heston was in....

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I hear that The Fat Duck have launched a new/revised degustation menu - yet to appear on their website.  Have not checked though so may be based on a mis-understanding ??? Also on the gossip front....Jean-Luc Naret (Head of Michelin) alledgedly visited the Fat Duck last week...Heston was in....

they haven't updated their website in over 18 months. I continue to get messages that it will be updated soon.

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    • By chefg
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    • By ronnie_suburban
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      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
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      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
    • By ronnie_suburban
      Sometime this week, at an undisclosed location in the city of Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz begins the next leg of his journey to open his new restaurant, Alinea. Grant will christen the 'food lab' where the menu for Alinea will be developed. eGullet will be trailing Grant and his team throughout the process -- not just in the food lab but through every facet of the launch. Over the next six months, we will follow the Alinea team as they discover, develop, design and execute their plan. We'll document behind-the-scenes communications, forwarded directly to us by the Alinea team. We will be on the scene, bringing regular updates to the eGullet community. And Grant will join us in this special Alinea forum to discuss the process of opening Alinea. eGullet members will have the opportunity to ask Grant, and several other members of the Alinea team, questions about the development of the restaurant.
       
      A Perfect Pairing?
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      The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea."
      Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them.
       
      "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it."
      While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants.
       
      Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one.
       
      The Path From Here
      In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision.
      * * * * *
      In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here.
      Photos courtesy Alinea
       
      eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
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