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Matthew Grant

Aladdins Cave

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I'm going to the Fat Duck Kitchen for a couple of days starting tomorrow.

What would other people want to know if they were visiting (I already have my own list)?


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

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How many chefs are there in the kitchen during a service.

What does Heston actually do!

What proportion of the cooking is carried out on non-standard equipment.

How do they cope with such large numbers of very small dishes going out in quick succession.

Where have his chefs worked before coming to the Fat Duck and do they find the job very different from other kitchens they may have worked in.

Does Heston talk as much in the kitchen as he does to the punters.

What are the kitchens favourite/least favourite dishes to prepare.

What are they working on at the moment for future menus.

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do they roll around laughing when another empty plate returns?

ie i can't believe they've just eaten the pheasant carpaccipo with lime curd what can we try next?

sorry, i'm becoming v cynical in my old age but an eagerly anticipated visit just did nothing for me.

I enjoyed his Q & A session and the science makes sense but the combinations??? Just too far out for my tastes.


you don't win friends with salad

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How many chefs are there in the kitchen during a service.

What does Heston actually do!

What proportion of the cooking is carried out on non-standard equipment.

How do they cope with such large numbers of very small dishes going out in quick succession.

Where have his chefs worked before coming to the Fat Duck and do they find the job very different from other kitchens they may have worked in.

Does Heston talk as much in the kitchen as he does to the punters.

What are the kitchens favourite/least favourite dishes to prepare.

What are they working on at the moment for future menus.

Andy,

There are 8 chefs in the kitchen during service, it is VERY tiny, 5 in the 'front' kitchen doing the 'main' courses and 3 in the back doin pastry and Amuse.

Heston, was plating up, offering advice and talking/feeding me!

There is very little non-standard equipment in the kitchen, a couple of (small) laboratory water baths for poaching was about all that was on display in the main kitchen. Overall, most of the food is cooked on standard equipment but using new techniques. He si currently working on a project that could lead to new equipment in professional kitchens.

I'm still not sure how they got he food out the kitchen so promptly! Times are marked down when the customer arrives and when they finish the pre starters. They then work out a rough guidline as to when they will serve each course, however, if the customer wants to slow things down, that can be done as well, the waiting staf call it and the kitchen doesn't to the prep until the customer is ready again. They are very accurate on getting the food out at the times they estimate, down to the minute most of the time. It is fantastic to watch.

The chefs I spoke to had worked at various places, notably, Rick Steins, and the Mandarin Oriental (with a few stages in Foliage), a more recent arrival had spent a few weeks in GR@RHR. The difference form this an other kitchens is the style of food that is being prepared, they all seem to be able to come up with ideas that the kitchen will try (different presentration of a dish, different flavour ice cream etc.). The main difference that they all comment on is the size of the kitchen, it really is incredibly tiny.

The kitchen didn't seem to ave any dishes that thy didn't particularly like preparing, I never once heard a chef complain whilst prepping a dish and they all seem to take great pride in ensuring that the finished product is perfect.

Heston chats to the rest of the kitchen but more as a mentor than as a head chef, he certainly isn't as non-stop as when you talk to him one on one. I have never met anybody so excited about food and pushing the boundaries. He was very open with me about plans for the future but I will not reveal them here, I don't want to spoil the surprises!

As for the rest of you:

Gary - I only once saw a plate come back.... to ask for another spoonful of the snail porridge :laugh: Otherwise, everybody seems to enjoy the food greatly.

As for Sketch being the most important restaurant to open in London ever - a very confused look on his face, the first and only place he mentioned before we were distracted and moved on to another topic was Kensington Place - I cannot elaborate on the reasons.

I had a fantastic time and felt privileged to be able to spend some time there. I hope to be able to go back in the near future once my feet recover. Whether you like his food or not (I have only eaten there once and am now his biggest fan:wub:), the effort in the kitchen to produce even some of the smallest courses is incredible. As a customer you can never imagine the work that has gone into making the finished product.


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

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Matthew -- What did Blumenthal feed you (including the number of dishes sampled)? Note BLH and I also asked about stages during the Blumenthal Q&A, and received affirmative responses. :wink:

Also, could you retrieve the name of the inn in the bend in the road prior to FD and its phone number? Are there any other inns that are close to FD? I'm considering a visit sometime next year, but probably would not stay at Waterside Inn while staging at FD.


Edited by cabrales (log)

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Cabrales,

A day in the kitchen at the Fat Ducjk should not be considered as an opportunity to sample lots of dishes, I occasionally had a small taste of something such as a mango sauce (which I had just help make), a spoonfulof the snail porridge (my only complaint from my earlier meal), half a teaspoon of parfait, a small taste of the sardines on toast ice cream, the small chocolate disc covering the cauliflower risotto etc. Aside from this I was fed Bacon and cheese sandwiches one day and pasta another, all thrown together very quickly for staff lunches which are taken virtually on the move.

This is not something to consider unless you main interest is learning and helping in the kitchen. I think it would be difficult to stand in the kitchen and not contribute due to the space constraints, there is not really anywhere to stand without getting in peoples way.

If your main interest is the tasting of dishes and discussing them with Heston then I would suggest contacting him in advance and seeing if he will arrange a special tasting menu. I am sure he will happily oblige with any discussion you would wish to undertake regarding the meal after you have finished and they are also happy for you to visit the kitchen. A complete day would be very tiring, the chefs are in the kitchen at around 07:30, the lunch service completes at around 16:00 and then preparation continues for the evening service, the chefs do not leave the kitchen during this time (a real labour of love) and eventually finish around 23:00 - 23:30. It should also be noted that Heston was a very amiable host and very happy to discuss his work at length, however, on the second day he was busy outside of the kitchen which was left in the capable hands of Garrey. Obviously this leaves less time for chat.

As for the pub next door I think it is called the Hinds Head Hotel.


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

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Matthew -- Based on your experiences, how many 1/2 days would be appropriate for a stage to get a feel for the FD kitchen? Would 2 half-days be sufficient? :wink:

I could schedule a Saturday afternoon/evening and a Sunday (through the closing of the restaurant after lunch on that day) to observe.


Edited by cabrales (log)

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A complete day would be very tiring, the chefs are in the kitchen at around 07:30, the lunch service completes at around 16:00 and then preparation continues for the evening service, the chefs do not leave the kitchen during this time (a real labour of love) and eventually finish around 23:00 - 23:30.

16 hours a day! Is this legal?

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Matthew -- Based on your experiences, how many 1/2 days would be appropriate for a stage to get a feel for the FD kitchen? Would 2 half-days be sufficient?  :wink:

I could schedule a Saturday afternoon/evening and a Sunday (through the closing of the restaurant after lunch on that day) to observe.

Cabrales, I did 2 half-days (I had driven down on both days which 4 more hours to my day), starting at 07:30 and finisihing around 16:30, I was then called a part-timer as I slinked away for the evening :biggrin:

Depending on how involved you wish to get, a feel for the kitchen could probably be obtained in 1 stage. As previously mentioned it is very small (nobody would believe how small) and if you weren't active in the kitchen then you may feel in the way (i.e the other chefs will ask you to do things). As somebody who doesn't cook (or have you expanded your efforts recently?) I would suggest just one stage, make sure you get some comfortable non-slip shoes and be prepared to get equipment for the other chefs, peel beetroots juice carrots etc.

Although I didn't stay for the evening (we had 51 and 32 covers for lunch respectively, more than were booked in for dinner), you may miss out on a lot of the prep work. Bearing in mind that the first service doesn't really finish until around 16:30 and service will start again just 3 hours later, you may find that you wish to see more of the prep. Incidentally on a Sunday the chefs leave around 18:00. Half day in chefs talk seems to mean an 8 hour day :wacko:


Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

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

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