Heston Blumenthal declines to comment.
As regular client at the Fat Duck I have been reading the contributors' comments with interest. Only after a recent visit to Spain and a mind-blowing lunch at El Bulli have I had to accept that these unfavourable comparisons are absolutely true. I put this to Heston himself in an e-mail, but so far he has not replied. It is said that the greatest lies are told in silence. I will keep you informed.
Mr. Blumenthal asked me to post the following two emails he sent to Kristian, and he invites anyone interested in reading further info on his kitchen's techniques to email him at Hestonblumenthal@cs.com
THanks for your e-mail. I have now had a look at the web site and, to be quite hinest was a little surprised.
I took one idea from Martin Beresetagi about fivr years aga; he was shreding squid to lok like pasta; I developed this into the casing for the cuttlefish. I gained this idea when my closest friend who was a television director who was working for me went off to Beresetagi to work.
This was five years ago and we had allready been serving the ballotine of foie gras with smoked eel!
THe salted butter caramel dessert that I was accused of "stealing" in fact came from M Roux in Quiberon in Brittany.
He is the king of the salted butter caramel sweets and it was an adaptation of one of his sweets.
I will in the course of the next couple of weeks reply to this web site, including some of my theories that will not exist or be printed anywhere. Unfortunately, unlike some busy-bodies who have a fantastic ability to criticise but have no ability ti create, I work a minimun of an eighteen hour day whichmeans that the reply to this web site will take a little time. Thank you, however for pointing this out to me as I would havre not been aware of this otherwise.
If you want to ask me some food questions, please do so as I do, believe it or not have ideas of my own;
Regarding the cost of the menu at the Fat duck, 55 pounds does not in fact yield us the return that we need to to pay all of our overheads. Unfortunately, I am not in the position to employ two thirds of my staff without being paid as Ferran Adria does.
Our wage bill is in excees 330k per annum.
The united kingdom is one of the most expensive countires in the world and although I am not fot one minute suggesting that we are cheap, we are considerably lower than some other gastronomic establishments in this country, charging 35 pounds for a starter.
Our break-even is 25k per week! With thirteen tables this is not the easiest thing to do.
You must understand my reaction then at being accused (amongst other things) of ripping people off as we feel that we put so much honesty in what we do.
Regarding the food itself, the cooking at the Fat duck is still very young (I have only been cooking for five and a half years); it is still in its' evolution.
Of course restaurants like mine absolutely need press coverage but it is in no way created by gimmickery. My cooking is evolving and still very much in its' formative years.
I do not for one minute put myself in Ferran Adrias' category. This is something that has been mentioned in the press and obviously setting me up to be accused of copying.
We are on the verge of a new style of cooking however the fewer exponents of this the more the younger ones will be considered as copying.
I am trying to build a network of chefs and scientists that can create an environment for working together and where everyone will have something to offer.
Over the yeas, I have taken as much info as I can through books and scientists and believe that I have a duty to feed back information that I have to offfer back into the system.
You mentioned that Ferran has got there first. It is not a race; what he is doing is, as you say fantastic. I however have far too much respect for him to copy him.
There are many techniques and theories that we are working on here that as far as I am cocerned have not come from anywhere else; the use of liquid nitrogen for example to dip a hot poached pear coated in caramel so that it is frozen on the outside and hot in the centre. Playing crunching noises to people whilst chewing!
The combination of white chocolate and caviar. Cereal made from parsnips and parsnip milk. Popping candy in a dessert; Savoury candyfloss; being spoon fed pommes purees with encapsulated flavours; low temperature cooking techniques; the use of stirred water baths for cookig foie gras. The use of a distillator in the kitchen.
I have a fantastic team here who do not come to work to trick the public. Everyone here puts so much in to what we do and although I would be the first to admit that we do not allways get it right, we do our hardest to try.
I am sure that if you met me you would realise that the perception that I feel that you have in your mind is so far from reality it is not true.
Please, if you do find it in you to return to the restaurant, contact me as I would love to talk further.
I have not forsaken the last five and a half years of my life to give a customer a bitter taste in their mouth. I can only apologise for this.
All the best
As a regular client at Fat Duck you must have spent some serious money. It would be the least you could expect for Blumenthal to acknowledge your observations/criticisms. Perhaps a dinner on the house and a serious chat face to face might be a bit more appropriate.
Blumenthal has not set himself up as a surrogate El Bulli and it probably unfair to directly compare one with the other. However, what he does do is charge shit loads of money for his food and takes every opportunity of hyping in the media as wonderful.
The food should therefore be at least as good as everyone else who charges shit loads (it isn't)and as good as he claims it to be (ditto) , otherwise he should reduce his prices and shut up until he has something worth crowing about, apart from the salmon and foie gras dish, which is in fact very good indeed.
re: Andy Lynes
I have spent 'shitloads' of money at the Fat Duck and now I feel a bit stupid for having done so. I think I've been ripped-off and for this reason I don't think I'll be going back under any circumstances.
Regarding the salmon and foie-gras thing, it is nice but according to Jamie Kimm, current chef at Bentleys and ex-Fat Duck sous chef, it's his dish and Heston pinched it.
re: Andy Lynes
The feuillantine is my dish, I have been working on it for the last five years.
It is becomming apparant that Mr lynes is a friend of Jamie Kims and now the picture is becoming clearer.
Maybe Mr Lynes, in order to check Mr Kims' allegations, could ask him how the dish is prepared, the role of all of the individual ingredients and the theory behind the whole conception of the dish.In fact I would be very happy for anyone who wishes to follow up any of these allegations to do so directly to me by e-mail or even make a call to the restaurant.
I really would be very interested to hear the foundations of these comments.
I would also like to know who else has been working on the same low temperature cooking techniques. The systems that we have been using for the past one and a half years that has just been scientifically supported in a paper by the brilliant Harold Mcgee (in the last month or so) which do not exist in print other than my own or this new paper of Harolds.
Amongst other things are the relationships between acidity and colour in fruit jellies to confuse the palate, the making of savoury candyfloss using lactose and maqltodextrin, tobacco chocolates, parsnip cereal, white chocolate and caviar buttons, the use of green tea and alcohol with maltodextrin to cleanse the palate, the use of sand to thicken oil, being spoon-fed, the encapsulated flavour theory ( overcooking eggs in a custard to make a fried egg and bacon ice cream -not to be confused with bacon ice cream, a jelly that tastes of one thing from one side and another from the other, combining different ingredients that contain amines and making them work, the use of liquid nitrogen (to make a caramel-coated pear frozen on the outside and hot in the middle), the use of laboratorical stirred water baths, a distillation unit for building up flavours, playing crunching noises to someone while chewing.........
These are just some of the things that we are working on and I challenge anyone to find another restaurant in the world that is doing these particular things.
I am in no way putting us on a pedestal, merely defending this most ridiculous accusation.
All of these ideas and techniques have a foundation and an explanation for their existence.
It now seems to me that there is something a little more sinister than at what I first took as a vitriolic, personal attack.
It is completely unfounded and if anyone considers otherwise, please feel free to send me an e-mail or contact me at the restaurant to discuss it further.
Please make sure, however that you have a strong enough argument.
Kristian; I am sorry if these exchanges have darkened your opinion of the restaurant but although I cannot argue with someone who does not like my food, I can definately defend an accusation of existing only by plagiarism.
Please feel free to call me with any questions as this situation is becomming ridiculous,
re: Heston Blumenthal
funny as ive just actually seen hestons comment, he called me when this came out many years ago and was anxious to get to the bottom of such rumours, yes i did work on the dish and its process was slow and indeed heston needed help with that process, oyster vinaigrette was mine for sure and at a point it worked well with the dish as far as i recall.
re: Kristian Pielhof
I have not been to the Fat Duck and I know nothing of Heston Blumenthal except what has been written herewith (and by Andy Lynes). Nor have I been to El Bulli.
But I do wonder why, if you have been a regular customer and have enjoyed your food at The Fat Duck to date, you suddenly feel stupid and ripped off - just beccause you happened to eat at another restaurant in another country, that you liked better, and from which perhaps Fat Duck may derive inspiration?
I am presuming you don't have regular access to El Bulli. So that's like saying, 'I really the pizza from Pizza Express until I went to Naples and tasted the pizza there. Now I regret ever going to Pizza Express, even though until I went to Naples I didn't know what 'better pizza' might taste like.' If I now choose not to eat pizza because I find it disappointing - and to save up my appetite and pizza pennies until the next time I'm in Naples, so be it. But that doesn't negate my enjoyment of what I had before.
How does going to El Bulli make your experience at Fat Duck less enjoyable? Should you choose not to return to Fat Duck because you don't like the food there, or you find it too expensive, so be it. Likewise if your superior experience at El Bulli has turned you off Fat Duck, then that's a choice you've now made based on having something you considered better/better value/more authentic/whatever, and perhaps Fat Duck will continue to disappoint based on that comparison.
I applaud you for trying to contact the chef if it's to express that you don't find the food up to the snuff of the prices. I wonder why it's doing so well if this is a common criticism? Anyway, this shows that you as a Chowhound are trying to raise the standard of food available in England, by not falling in the all-too-English 'please sir, can I have some more' trap of perpetuating bad food/service/treatment not only by silently accepting it, but also by condoning it with your continued custom. But don't beat yourself up for not knowing what you were missing.
But instead of writing to him, why don't you write to the Good Food Guide and Michelin, as I have? Blumenthal is deserving of neither stars nor epithets like 'Chef of the Year'and he should be stripped of them. I had to tolerate this charlatan on 'my' BBC a few weeks ago, and my God, as well as being a plagiarist he's boring too.