Heston Blumenthal is known as the mad kitchen scientist who cooks with glycerine and liquid nitrogen and puts snails in his porridge. So, given his background in wacky experimentation, it seems only natural to ask him for a definitive answer to the question that has been plaguing the British consumer for several centuries. Heston, I say, almost as soon as we’ve shaken hands, when making a cup of tea, should you put the milk in first or second?
‘Second,’ Blumenthal replies confidently. Is there some complex chemical explanation for this? Is the molecular structure of milk somehow compromised by the subtle gradations in temperature? Has he produced a clever whizz-bang explosion with Bunsen burners and delivered his findings in a key lecture to the Royal Society? ‘Actually, it’s much simpler than that. It’s because if you put $47 nwt kay celine nude lace mesh evening party cocktail dress size s it in first, you don’t have a gauge to tell you how strong it is.’
Oh. Right. In fact, he says, he is a bit fed up with the whole molecular-gastronomy thing. ‘I moan a lot about that. I do cook dishes other than snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream.’
Still, when he looks so uncannily like an earnest laboratory technician, it is difficult not to think of him fiddling around with test tubes and putting snails in Petri dishes. Today, he is wearing rimless spectacles that wrap around his head like safety glasses and, as he talks, he has a habit of sketching out complicated thoughts on the tabletop like an enthusiastic genius whose ideas are too big for his head. Even his pale beige jacket resembles a white coat.
His conversation is peppered with enormous calculations, all rapidly worked out in his head. At one point, while talking about his latest television project to reinvigorate the ailing chain of Little Chef motorway service stations, he tells me that each kitchen requires a staff of seven. ‘Three chefs, another four to do the prepping, and that’s across 520 branches celine nano replica, so how many’s that?’ He pauses, expectantly. I sit there mutely, having no clue. ‘That’s around 3,700 chefs,’ he says and I feel as if I have just failed a school arithmetic test.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise to 0 celine 173823ska 18cc carolina discover that Blumenthal is so methodically minded. At 42, he is famed as a culinary alchemist and pioneer, a perfectionist who has been known to take two days to cook a curry. But he also delights in expectation-defying flights of fancy – designing edible sweet wrappers and filling helium balloons with chocolate-infused gas. Blumenthal is like a cross between James Dyson and Willy Wonka, a sort of kitchen savant capable of swooping feats of mental ingenuity. This is the man who has been known to serve seafood on a bed of edible sand, accompanied by an iPod playing the sound of crashing waves.
‘There’s an element of the inner child to my food,’ Blumenthal admits. ‘A sense of wonderment. It’s like a kid in anticipation of Christmas – I want people to feel that excitement when they eat.’ And it tastes good, too – his three-Michelin-starred $1290 celine black leather gold heel tall boots sz 37 restaurant, the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, was this year voted best restaurant in the UK by The Good Food Guide
Sadly, we don’t get a chance to test the tea-and-milk theory because Blumenthal is inconsiderately drinking a cappuccino. We are sitting on leather banquettes at a corner table in Scott’s, central London, $2700 new 2017 authentic celine nano debossed luggage gray calfskin aqua trim and although it is a busy weekday lunchtime, Blumenthal appears entirely unconcerned by the noisy bustle around us. He possesses an almost preternatural focus, which is good, really, when you consider how much patience must be required to prepare the sort of painstakingly innovative dishes featured in his new book, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook (and it is both big and fat, weighing a not inconsiderable 5.4kg). The recipes require the use of such everyday household implements as a commercial vacuum packer and a wide-bore syringe.
‘There is this slight obsessive thing I have,’ he says. ‘I will cook a piece of meat 20 times, $3600 new authentic celine mini luggage drummed souris taupe leather bag tote changing the temperature within one degree each time. People think it’s all magic. Actually, a lot of it is paint-dryingly boring nitty-gritty.’ Even his dreams are dominated by food. ‘I will be on a boat but actually it isn’t a boat at all, it’s a loaf of bread.’
Is he a control freak? There is a long pause. ‘You’d probably have to go and ask the people around me. I would say, “No, not at all!” Certainly up to 2005, when we got our third star, absolutely every single minuscule detail of everything had to go through me, but there came a point where that had to stop.’
He says that point came when, two years ago, he was forced to take time off work over Christmas to recover from a back operation. As he was putting up the tree decorations, his son Jack, then 13, mentioned that 0 celine bag 30 cm equals how many inches it was the first time his father had ever done so. ‘You can get so wrapped up in your own world and when your kid has done well at school and comes home and wants to tell you, you might say, “That’s really good” and then just turn away. It’s amazing how such subtle actions can end up having such powerful effects. I’ve done a lot of work on that side of things in the last couple of years.’
He readily admits that his wife, Zanna, has almost single-handedly brought up their three children – Jack, now 15, Jessie, 13, and Joy, 11. ‘My wife does everything. Completely. The lot. She is the single biggest reason for my success.
‘I’ve got this unbelievably focused drive at work, I hardly forget anything. Then I’m the mirror image of uselessness at home. My $1290 celine black leather gold heel tall boots sz 37 idea of looking for something is standing in the middle of 0 celine a scene 75 cleveland the room crying, “Where’s my socks?” I think I have a mental capacity for a certain amount of information.’
This year, he is looking forward to a proper family Christmas, although I’m half expecting him to outline some fabulously crazy twist on the traditional roast dinner – a turkey jelly, perhaps, frosted with nitroglycerin and served with a tiny atomiser that will spray the room with the scent of mulled wine. This is not to be. He’s cooking a capon with truffle for Christmas Day and plans to do a roast-goose confit with black pudding and roast potatoes for Boxing Day. His children still get stockings from Santa Claus, each one filled with tangerines and chocolate. What, no snail porridge? ‘They want fish fingers,’ he sighs. ‘They certainly don’t live off free-range chicken and organic vegetables. It’s important to be realistic about kids being kids.’
He adds that everyone expects him to subsist on a diet of utterly bonkers foodstuffs and, as a consequence, he rarely gets invited out to dinner. ‘I was training some staff the other day and said I’d probably have a sandwich for lunch and they were so surprised that I eat sandwiches. I think they expected a lunchbox with a special ergonomically designed locking mechanism.
‘I have a really bad thing for prawn cocktail,’ he says guiltily, as if he has just admitted he is an alcoholic. ‘And this isn’t langoustines in a special sauce, this is just a tub of prawns and Marie Rose. I’m a Seventies kid. I grew up in a world where you had one type of pasta that came in a blue packet and an avocado was the height of luxury and you bought your olive oil from the pharmacy.’
It is easy, somehow, to picture Blumenthal as a young boy. He seems still to possess a guileless naivety and an adolescent sense of excitement for bizarre enthusiasms. I can readily imagine him as a teenager, the walls of his room plastered not with rock-star memorabilia but with posters depicting centrifuges and kitchen thermometers.
He is entirely self-taught – it was a trip to Provence with his parents, aged 15, that prompted his desire to become a chef – and spent several years doing dispiriting jobs to pay the rent. For a while, he was a telephone salesman for a photocopier manufacturer. ‘I hated it,’ he says. ‘If you’re not very good at rejection, don’t do cold-calling.’
Even now, with his three stars and his honorary doctorate in science from the University of Reading, he reacts to criticism. ‘I’m better at understanding it but I still find it really hard if someone says, “Oh, that’s rubbish”, because it’s a very dismissive statement that doesn’t quantify anything.’
I wonder whether he feels that, finally, he has succeeded in what he set out to do; whether the inexplicable drive he once had has actually got him somewhere he is happy with? He looks at me levelly. ‘Yeah,’ he says, curiously perturbed by his own admission. ‘Do you know, that’s the first time I’ve ever answered that question like that?’ He shakes his head in disbelief. ‘That’s weird.’
Still, he doesn’t plan to slow down his work-rate any time soon. As well as the new book, the restaurant and the Christmas capon with truffle, he has two television programmes on the go for Channel 4. The Little Chef project – he has to design a new menu for the chain and train the staff to cook it – has proved time consuming. ‘The complication is that it’s not just a TV programme – we’re doing it for real and it has to be replicated across the country, 7am to 10pm, seven days a week. He describes the experience as ‘like someone poking your sunburn and saying, “That looks really nasty”.’
Despite the limitations, Blumenthal is determined to introduce some of his more fantastical touches to the Little Chef, including talking urinals that spout Spike Milligan quotes and an air-freshening system that will pipe out the smell of roast coffee. As for the tea, customers will be able to choose whether to put the milk in first or second. Personally, I’d go for the latter – and then squirt it on to my tongue with a wide-bore syringe.
• The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is published $2250 new authentic celine cabas phantom black croc by Bloomsbury at £100.
• This article $140 aetrex essence shoes celine mary jane pump black leather strap 8 was amended on Sunday 21 December 2008. We said: “Heston Blumenthal is known as the mad kitchen scientist who cooks with nitroglycerin and puts snails in his porridge” and went on to speculate that his Christmas might include “a turkey jelly, perhaps frosted with nitroglycerin”. Glycerine and liquid nitrogen feature in Mr Blumenthal’s spectacular culinary delights, not high explosive. This has been corrected.