$7000 diners to get a taste of wizardry

By Bevan Hurley

Chef Heston Blumenthal. Photo / Supplied
Chef Heston Blumenthal. Photo / Supplied

With his shaven head and thick-rimmed glasses, Heston Blumenthal has often been compared to a crazed culinary wizard.

But the three-starred Michelin chef, famed for wacky creations such as snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream, says he flunked science at school and ever since has tried to satisfy his overactive imagination.

"I'm just a big kid looking for an opportunity to use a power tool and blow things up," he said from Sydney.

The English chef makes his first visit to New Zealand this week. He will prepare part of a six-course, banquet for 65 guests at the Cape Kidnappers resort in Hawke's Bay on Saturday night. They will pay $7000-a-head for three nights accommodation plus the meal.

Diners will include Prime Minister John Key, who will be attending in a private capacity.

US culinary powerhouse Thomas Keller and the resort's Kiwi head chef Dale Gartland will prepare the rest of the meal.

Blumenthal is best known to New Zealanders for TV shows such as Heston's Feast, in which he recreates fairytale meals from history.

But he is considered the top British chef of his generation, and his Fat Duck restaurant near London has been named in the top three in the world for the past six years in the San Pellegrino awards.

In 2004 he became only the third English chef to be awarded three Michelin stars - the Everest of the cooking world.

"Nothing can prepare you for that. The phone went nuts with all kinds of offers. It was a bit like a pat on the back and a kick in the nuts."

Despite an outbreak of food poisoning in 2009, the Fat Duck is booked out months in advance by diners keen to pay $350 for such delights as quail jelly and grain mustard ice cream.

His offerings on Saturday will include Sounds of the Sea, fresh seafood served with conch shells containing mini iPods that play the noise of waves.

His other dish will be 350-year-old dessert Taffety tart. Traditionally made from apple, rose petals and fennel, Blumenthal said his version bore no resemblance to the original.

The 44-year-old said he had read about the hangi, but never tasted it. He would first have to be "living in the culture and immerse myself in it" before attempting a trademark molecular deconstruction to find the best way to prepare one.

His new London restaurant, Dinner, serves dishes up to 500 years old.

Keller runs The French Laundry in California. Gartland replaces Australian Neil Perry, who was originally billed but is unable to attend.

MENU MAGIC

The menu - selected dishes from the banquet next weekend:

Dale Gartland
Cape Kidnappers beetroot with Over the Moon goat's curd, dukkah, cumin, and shallot
Matched to Dry River 2008 Lovat Gewurztraminer

Thomas Keller
Easterbrook duck breast, Swiss chard, glazed turnips, pickled blueberries and hazelnut
Matched to 2006 Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir

Heston Blumenthal
Sound of the Sea and Taffety tart (details in story)
Matched to Dry River 2007 Martinborough Chardonnay

* The final of Heston's Feast screens on TVOne at 9.30pm on Tuesday.

- Herald on Sunday

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