In the first episode of TLC’s Inside Heston’s World, celebrity chef and proprietor Heston Blumenthal announced his plan to temporally move his restaurant – The Fat Duck – 10,000 miles, from England to Australia.
Known as a pioneer of food pairing and flavor encapsulation, Blumenthal is also famous for giving his guests unique culinary adventures by “inventing” dishes, which simultaneously involve all of the senses, when eaten.
In his effort to modernize The Fat Duck, one of the few establishments that offer his unique culinary style, he is moving his entire restaurant, staff and facilities to Melbourne, Australia. There, he is opening a new restaurant and will run his whole food operation for six to seven months before returning to the United Kingdom for the opening of the new Fat Duck.
The process is going to be a daring six-month culinary journey that involves tedious task of moving around 70 people and seven tons of specialist equipment (including 126 iPods, 106 sauce spoons, 300 champagne glasses, a $20,000 vacuum oven, and a specialist piece of kit called “The Polar Bear,” just to name few) to a casino complex in Melbourne.
The Fat Duck is a restaurant in Berkshire, England and is ran by Blumenthal since 1995. It is known for its uniquely named menu like Snail Porridge, Bacon and Egg Ice Cream, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and a dish called Sound of the Sea, which includes an audio element that’s why they have more than a hundred iPads. It was voted No. 1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2006.
In an exclusive email interview with The Standard, the kitchen heavyweight relayed to us the nitty-gritty of moving an entire restaurant from its original location in London to the other side of the world.
“We had a lot of challenges,” he started, “There were visa issues, because a six-month visa is actually relatively easy to get, but because of the setup, the months beforehand of setting up and then packing everything up, it took it seven and a half months. And then it goes from six months to a year-and-a-half visa. And that was a really big job, to get visas for everybody.”
The process took longer than it was supposed to be because some members of Blumenthal’s staff don’t speak English as their mother language. Hence, they had to take the what-he-calls “a fairly brutal exam.” And there were a few people that had to take the exam a couple of times.
“Then there was all of the planning and the logistics of it, the packing up of all the kit right down to the crockery and the cutlery and running off the same power source,” Blumenthal said adding that their first week of operation was “brutal” but a sharp learning curve.
Inside Heston’s World goes behind the scene with the celebrity chef and his entire team. From the Master Sommeliers (wine experts/stewards) who introduce viewers to bottles of wine worth tens of thousands of pounds, to the waiting staff who must have a faultless knowledge of the thousands of ingredients in every single dish, to the bookings ladies in charge of fielding 36,000 phone calls a day and both kitchen and Development chefs who work tirelessly to produce consistently excellent food and uphold three Michelin star standards.
“And that’s another challenge, when everyone moved to Australia, the development kitchen was still in the UK, there’s the word perfection is the enemy of creativity. A perfectionist, I think, is different because that’s somebody I see that just wants to keep on improving, kind of restless perfectionism,” Blumenthal noted.
And the audience is just seeing the tip of the iceberg because the series will be divided into four parts: first part is Blumenthal and his team getting ready for Australia; part two is the actual journey going to Australia and opening the restaurant in Melbourne; part three is “The Fat Duck” operating in Australia and then getting ready to be back for the UK; and part four is their journey back home.
Apart from giving the audience a peek into the world of cooking and restaurant operations, according to Blumenthal, there are a few things that they really want to achieve.
“We’ve got a team of 60/70 people, every single day handmaking things, to serve. The work that goes behind trying to get something right and the human nature of it and all the work that people try to put into it, that was one big thing. And maybe a bit more of an understanding of where I was coming from in my life, in my career and the direction that I wanted to go,” the British chef concluded.
Inside Heston’s World is a weekly series that premiered yesterday at 10 p.m. on TLC.