Self-taught chef Heston Blumenthal has made his name searching for culinary perfection – bringing the world decidedly unexpected flavour combinations like snail porridge along the way. His unorthodox, scientific approach to haute cuisine has brought him a host of Michelin stars and his odyssey continues today. Where will it take him next?
At Heathrow Express we like to celebrate doing things that bit smarter. Each month we seek out someone who really exemplifies this approach to work and life and ask them some questions. This month: Heston Blumenthal
You've started many businesses - are people born entrepreneurial or is it something they learn?
I think it is a bit of both. Certainly your genetic make-up plays a part, but it is also down to your life experiences and the opportunities that come your way. You need to work hard but also be able to understand what an opportunity is and how to make the most of it.
You're self-taught. Do you think this allowed you to try things other chefs with more traditional backgrounds wouldn't have considered?
I think it allowed me to question and research more. I wasn't in a professional kitchen where there are expected practices and processes. I had the chance to question everything and not just accept what had become the norm.
How do you come up with new recipes? Do you follow a tried and tested approach?
Yes and no. We have a rigorous testing process, but our inspiration comes from everywhere. I work with my team – the Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen – to come up with new ideas and to see how this fits with our approach, which is all about multi-sensory experiences and research into nostalgia and history. Every ingredient is carefully thought through and combinations tested over and over again to get them just right.
Thinking smarter, being creative; it’s something many people struggle with – is there a secret?
I think people are born with different minds and skills and I’m extremely passionate about creativity; how it should be encouraged in all ages and in all aspects of life. The biggest issue most have is that they follow systems that say ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘success’ or ‘failure’ – and this squashes creativity. It needs to flourish and not be stifled.
Successful restaurants are about teamwork as well as great food. What’s the best way to motivate people?
It sounds silly, but you need to treat them like people. As a boss, you need to take responsibility too. As soon as you do, then those you work with can grow. I have an amazing team and it’s been really rewarding watching the ones that have worked with me for years grow.
Do you cook at home? If so, what's your favourite home-cooked meal for the family?
Yes I love cooking at home, but it’s completely different to a professional kitchen. I don’t have a favourite food – it completely depends on what time of day, who I’m with, my mood, where I am. Enjoying food is rooted in a certain time and place.
What's currently your most exciting new dish or ingredient and why?
Not exactly new, but it’s salt. Not just because chefs use it in cooking, but because it’s so diverse. It’s not just a seasoning; you can use it to combat bitterness, for curing of meats, to make pastry – it’s used in everything!
You must travel a lot – is there a particular part of the world you love to visit and why?
I love Australia – and the more I go, the more I love it. We’re opening Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne this autumn, so I have lots of excuses to get on a plane. It’s an exciting place.
What do you always take with you when you travel and why?
Heathrow Express customers can enjoy a FREE cocktail with any main dish at Heston's The Perfectionists' Café in Terminal 2. There's also a chance to WIN signed copies of his latest recipe book and a 'Sage by Heston Blumenthal Nutri Juicer Pro' worth £300. Find out more
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