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The Fat Duck 2009


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Thanks guys

Gary, was there a public announcement about it? If it is back open Thursday then we won't cancel B&B etc. but it would be good to know the likelihood of them fulfilling our booking on Thursday night.

it was from their PR, i'd call the restaurant and hear it from the horses mouth.

you don't win friends with salad

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power cut my arse :laugh:

how very interesting, i've long thought that these low temperature cooking methods are an accident waiting to happen, and for me personally an extremely unpleasant incident that has happened and i'd best not go into on a public board.

front page of the telegraph today

you don't win friends with salad

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power cut my arse  :laugh:

how very interesting, i've long thought that these low temperature cooking methods are an accident waiting to happen, and for me personally an extremely unpleasant incident that has happened and i'd best not go into on a public board.

front page of the telegraph today

Or maybe a more obvious reason.

From how the symptoms are described it sounds like a Norovirus (or as it is known in the UK the Winter Vomiting Virus) which is highly contageous and can easily be passed very easily from person to person as well as by ingredients like oysters. As someone can be contageous from the time they feel ill until three days after complete recovery it can be tricky to isolate the source.

As you can see from this CDC article it is thought to be the source of many mass "food poisoning" episodes (i.e. cruise ships) and because of the extremely small amount of virus required to spread the illness it can be spread very easily and inadvertently.

I hope they find the cause and get back to business ASAP and they don't suffer long term PR damage.

Edited by PhilD (log)
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Whatever it is, Im sure the Fat Duck need it like a hole in the head. I would be extremely suprised if the problem was down to poor pratices. I don't think people should start jumping on the band wagon until the cause is proven. In my opinion, the only real concern is that with m.g cuisine, raw products can go through a multitude of steps, with many pairs of hands coming into contact with the food stuffs. This will need to be strongly policed in such places, which Im sure in the FD case it is. That said, I am NOT suggesting for one minute that this is in anyway the cause of FD problems. It is merely a common sense observation.

As for sous vide, I believe it is a perfectly safe style of cookery, so long as the health and safety measures are closely observed. This pratice has been around for some thirty years now and as yet to be proved unsafe. The only people I find who whinge about it are the E.H Officers because they have no training or knowledge of the practice. I cook and prepare most red meats in this fashion, which produces excellent results. Lets be honest here, you are far more likely to encounter food poisoning in establishments whereby the workforce doesn't give toss, i.e general take aways and the numerous 'buy it in, microwave/ deep fat frying brigades'.

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The only people I find who whinge about it are the E.H Officers because they have no training or knowledge of the practice.

Are there national offical guidelines/requirements for SV or is local inspectors who may require data-loggers or records of meat temperatures before serving?

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[The only people I find who whinge about it are the E.H Officers because they have no training or knowledge of the practice.

Are there national offical guidelines/requirements for SV or is local inspectors who may require data-loggers or records of meat temperatures before serving?

There is an an article by Heston from 2005 in response to queries apparently being raised by EH officers. He mentions some of the issues caused by new processes which the inspectors may not understand and also talks about the Fat Duck's approach to ensuring that the food is properly cooked, including monitoring the actual temperature of meat etc.

The article also says that they have worked with microbiologists at Reading University to check the cooking processes used.

The full article is here for anyone who is interested.

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In my experience E.H.O's don't like the idea of anything being cooked and served less than welldone, be by trad or modern methods. Every thing is pretty much black and white with them due to their training (or lack of it!). As far as Im aware, there are no national guide lines regarding s.v. Its been down to chefs like H.B who have educated us its applications.

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The only people I find who whinge about it are the E.H Officers

and the diners who have to eat it!

I understand its use from a restaurants perspective in consistency etc but i rarely eat a piece of SV meat that would not have been better served by some time in a pan.

as an aside there is a growing worry about carcinogens in the plastic bags used in such cookery.

from the FD reports i can't be sure if it is one service where they all fell ill or a lot of guests becoming sick over a longer period as some reported?

you don't win friends with salad

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I find your negative comments on s.v strange, in respect of the fact that you have stated on egullet how much you enjoy the food of chefs like Anthony Flinn and Claude Bosi who both use s.v in their kitchens as a matter of course.

It is wrong to imply that the Fat Duck has closed due to the use of low temp cookery, which at the moment is looking more like foul play.

S.V is an excellent technique when performed in the correct manner. All the meats that I prepare spend 'time' in a pan, which finishes the cooking. At these temperatures and with meat being pasterized in the first place, what food pathogens are going to survive? You really need to understand what your talking about. You are just as likely to become 'ill' from meat cooked in a traditional fashion.

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i do eat them, and usually think 'that would have been great in a pan!' i don't mind sous vide and then pan, but i've had plenty of lumps of protein that are SV only and to my mind they are unpleasant to eat, and stand by the point they are for the restaurant's convenience not the diners.

I think it is being dressed up as great way to cook but in reality a good chef will cook it better in a pan/plancha but they aren't all like you and there all the time!

you're right tony does use it but he also cooks a lot on the plancha, and i'll moan about it there too.

i'm not specifically blaming sous vide, using it as a catch all term, but low temp 39 degree cooking is just a breeding ground for bacteria surely? You'd have to be absolutley spot on with provenance, storage and hygiene and i'm not suggesting that they weren't .

Interestingly in conversations i have had over the weekend is that sickness post high end modern dining is actually quite widespread - certainly not confined to the fat duck, i'm sure you're as safe as you can be at somewhere like the fat duck but in the wrong hands someone could get very seriously ill with these techniques.

(i'll tell you the gory details when i get over to see you......)

you don't win friends with salad

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SV cooking is probably safer than conventional, since the food is sealed and pasteurised.

There has been much discussion on the sv threads, and Douglas Baldwin's paper discusses the subject well http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html

Pasteurisation involves both time and temperature. Although there are no official standards in the UK, the US FDA recommendations are well understood. Joan Roca's book Sous Vide includes a full HACCP.

I am sure the Fat Duck is exemplary, and the cause is elsewhere, perhaps a customer with norovirus touching door handles or taps in the loo...

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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The irony of it all, Heston's book and TV series being called In Search of Perfection... and yet letting perfection slip, somehow.

I think Heston is one of the nicest, most perfectionist and humblest chefs out there, and that's why I find the news of the closing incredibly sad.

He explains exactly what happened and what's being done to remedy the situation in an interview with The Guardian's Matthew Fort.

Here is the link to the video.

That takes courage and strength of character, and I commend him.

And I also hope they figure out soon what went wrong.

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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Seems to me that Blumenthal is handling a rather unfortunate situation remarkably well.

I agree. He is handling it in a truly exemplary way. My desire to eat at the Fat Duck is in no way diminished.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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i do eat them, and usually think 'that would have been great in a pan!' i don't mind sous vide and then pan, but i've had plenty of lumps of protein that are SV only and to my mind they are unpleasant to eat, and stand by the point they are for the restaurant's convenience not the diners.

I think it is being dressed up as great way to cook but in reality a good chef will  cook it better in a pan/plancha but they aren't all like you and there all the time!

you're right tony does use it but he also cooks a lot on the plancha, and i'll moan about it there too.

i'm not specifically blaming sous vide, using it as a catch all term, but low temp 39 degree cooking is just a breeding ground for bacteria surely? You'd have to be absolutley spot on with provenance, storage and hygiene and i'm not suggesting that they weren't .

Interestingly in conversations i have had over the weekend is that sickness post high end modern dining is actually quite widespread - certainly not confined to the fat duck, i'm sure you're as safe as you can be at somewhere like the fat duck but in the wrong hands someone could get very seriously ill with these techniques.

(i'll tell you the gory details when i get over to see you......)

I actually experienced quite a bad bout of food poisioning recently from a (then) starred 'high end' restaurant. Has to be the most expensive bout of vomiting and diarrhea I ever had.

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from the FD reports i can't be sure if it is one service where they all fell ill or a lot of guests becoming sick over a longer period as some reported?

My read was it was 30 to 40 people over a three week period, one report said there as not pattern of server, table number etc so that points to a period of time, and thus a virus/carrier rather than a product.

I would also say that as SV cooking often isolates the portion/batch from other portions/batches it seems unlikely there is cross contamination between portions/batches and therefore unlikely to be a causal agent in 30 to 40 people falling ill.

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Well needless to say we didn't make it to the FD for dinner of course. I guess they are dealing reasonably well with the public side of the situation and my desire to eat there is undiminished (I'd have happily taken the chance on Thursday if given the choice). It is very disappointing to miss out though. When you cancel a top restaurant at short notice you end up having to pay a charge per head to compensate them for their loss - the same does not apply in reverse. Flights, accommodation, baby-sitting and car hire all revolved around a trip to the FD. Anyway, I guess the financial impact is smaller than the disappointment of not eating there and I hope they re-open soon.

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With this whole debate around the closing of the Fat Duck my wife and I remembered an incident that we observed following our (otherwise perfect) experience at this restaurant about two years ago.

It was lunchtime and after our meal we decided to walk a few steps down to the Waterside Inn and back, before entering our car. On our return, we saw a group of four coming out of the Fat Duck restaurant who had been having lunch at a neighboring table. One lady was in obvious discomfort and had to be supported by two others. They crossed the busy high street where she threw up her entire lunch into a bush as we were approaching.

Not for a moment do I believe that this was a case of poisoning - all the rest of us were fine. My suspicion is that it can cost some unexperienced (and perhaps involuntary) diners quite an effort to eat and enjoy what is put in front of them at the Fat Duck. Somebody who grew up on baked beans, fish and chips, roast chicken and the like, and then only gets into Heston's place as part of a group, may struggle to suddenly eat snail porridge and sardine ice cream, just to name a few examples.

What I am trying to say is - next to the food hygiene risks that may or may not come with avant-garde cooking techniques, there can also be the psychological problem of occasional non-foodies who are completely overburdened by the whole experience and have to fight their potential disgust during the entire mealtime.

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I totally agree. I took a group of clients to the Fat Duck some years ago and it was a big mistake. They weren't foodies and of course had heard of the place and were desperate to go. The food wasn't enjoyed that much by most of them, which spoilt my enjoyment.

I do feel sorry for Heston - and agree that he is handling it extremely well. He said on Breakfast TV today that he would personally phone all the customers and I believe him!

That said, I have also spoken to a few chefs who feel that some of the strange cooking methods are an accident waiting to happen.

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