Video: An exclusive tour of Heston's secret lab

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Video: An exclusive tour of Heston's secret lab

Some of you may remember the How to Cook Like Heston competition we ran back in the cold days of January. Well, in the not-much-warmer climes of April Lovefood Editor Andrew Webb accompanied winner Laure Moyle on to Bray to sample all things Heston. The man himself wasn’t there (he was at Buckingham Palace) but he admired Laure’s entry for sheer effort and the fact that her cake became the centrepiece of a family get-together.

Heston’s right-hand man

James ‘Jocky’ Pedrie is Head of Creative Development and talked Laure and I through some of the procedures and processes that they use at the Fat Duck. What followed was a wonderful demonstration featuring liquid nitrogen, dry ice, essential oils, flavour essences, culinary trompe l'oeil, and how sound and music can influence your perceptions of food.

The rest of the team

Heston would be the first to admit that he’d be lost without his team, and we got to meet the two lucky ladies who deal with the estimated 30,000 reservation enquiries the Fat Duck receives every week (thankfully, the recent implementation of the online booking system has eased that pressure). Reservations are taken on a first come first served basis. Those that are successful are sent a code that allows you to watch a special animated video that features… well we’re not allowed to say. But it’s very lovely and charming.

Inside the mind of a chef

Claire Gibbs is the brand manager at the Fat Duck, responsible for everything from Heston’s involvement with Waitrose to his cookbooks. Heston’s latest book is Heston Blumenthal at Home, and Claire kindly shows us the proofs, with notes and annotations as Heston and the team check and re-check every recipe and detail. Perhaps most interesting are Heston’s drawings and notes on how dishes are plated up... here are a few examples:

Visit to the Fat Duck - 44 Visit to the Fat Duck - 43

Visit to the Fat Duck - 42 Visit to the Fat Duck - 41 

Anyone for lunch?

SnailsWe finish the tour and head for lunch at the Hinds Head, one of two pubs that Heston owns in the Village. The pub has a long history - it was apparently where Prince Philip had his stag night, and it also hosted a celebratory dinner for Princess Margaret’s engagement to Lord Snowdon. 

Veal Chop

Head chef Kevin Love has suitable nods to history on his menu too: Laure’s starter of hash of snails originates from circa 1884, while my main of veal chop, cabbage and onion came with Reform sauce. This sauce is named after the Reform club, where famous Victorian chef Alexis Soyer manned the stoves. There's more information on the sauce here.

Tour of Bray

We then went for a nose around The Crown, the other pub in Bray that Heston owns which is more everyman than the Hinds Head or the Fat Duck, and remains ‘the village pub’. Otto Romer (Senior development chef) popped over to take us on a short tour of Bray, including The Waterside Inn established by Michel Roux and now with son Alain at the pass, as well as the parish church of St Michael’s, built in 1293 and ‘best known to brass rubbers for housing the superb memorial brass of 1378 to Sir John Foxley’, according to Wikipedia.  So with our postprandial walk complete, it was time to go home.

A big thank you to Monica at LotusPR and all the team at the Fat Duck, Hinds Head and The Crown for making the day so enjoyable.

More articles you may enjoy

Win the trip of a lifetime to India 

Heston triumphs in mince pie test by Simon Ward

Ashley Palmer-Watts: Heston's protégé's life in food 

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