Heston Blumenthal – "Heston's Fantastical Feasts" & The "Perfect Christmas"

February 20 2011 - 12:37 PM

I was sitting at Borders and while killing time came across Heston Blumenthal's Fantastical Feasts. The part that stuck out was how he got leeches to engorge themselves on goose blood so then he could fry them up as mini blood-puddings for his Gothic Feast… seriously. He's AWESOME. One of the questions I like to ask chefs is if they ever cook anything that isn't supposed to taste good. I get awkward stares and incredulous responses of "Never" or "I'd be out of business". I asked Blumenthal the same thing when I had the unexpected opportunity to talk to him for about 40 minutes and we got to the space I intended the question to take us- Ritual.

Growing up all the Jewish holidays are centered around food and meals. Even Yom Kippur is centered around food in reverse- it's a day for fasting. On Passover we eat horseradish root. It's not a pleasant experience but boy is it an experience. That's the point. Food, as the most fundamental part of life, has the greatest opportunity as a creative medium. I used to think of chefs as artists working in food. But I think they are more artists working in the medium of the meal. At this point Blumenthal, who is also a good listener, starts talking about Feast which is his concept restaurant that focuses on different feasts, for one, a Roman extravaganzas where the spit roasted pig is stuffed with a cornucopia of foods, revealed only when a sword wielding dwarf splits the body lengthwise and it all tumbles out. (note the pig is to be sous vide in a jaccuzzi).

His new book is a cook book inspired by several different feasts and while some of it is over the top, –leeches–, some of it is kind of hokey, an imitation, largely edible, graveyard. But the book was out of the box. In some ways it's more theatre than anything. It's unique, engaging and very educational. It's now on my list.

Here's his full hour-long "Perfect Christmas". He's got the concept of "the concept" down pat.


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