THE NAMES HESTON BLUMENTHAL AND THE FAT DUCK NEED ABSOLUTELY NO INTRODUCTION IN THE CULINARY WORLD, BUT DID YOU KNOW THERE’S MORE TO THIS MAN THAN A FAT DUCK? ANNE MARAIS SHARES THE STORY OF NEWTON CROSS MEETING HESTON BLUMENTHAL – BAREFOOT ON THE BEACH.
While in the beautiful Maldives, training at the Soneva Fushi resort, principal of the South African Butler Academy, Newton Cross, caught up with Heston while he was on a planning break. The two share a great love of hospitality, an interest in gastronomy and the love of island life! They discussed Blumenthal’s restaurant, The Fat Duck, particularly how he arrived at formulating the menu and the culinary experiences a collective whole. He revealed his secret to poaching a perfect egg, the golden nuggets of information all foodies are biting at the proverbial bit for. His method does not include a vinegarand-water solution at all, however a tiny amount of table salt is added to boiling water – his scientific approach to poaching is to merely place a plate at the bottom of the pot of boiling water. His theory is that the egg lifts and remains inside the vortex of boiling water and retains the shape for the perfect poach egg!
Try it for yourself. Newton recalls that Heston commented on the SABA training methods, commending that the butlers (he called them Mr or Mrs Fridays) were encouraged to make the decision for themselves. Whether they wanted to see a happy guest at the resort they worked at, being mindful of the guest and not just ‘doing their job’. So deciding that they would indeed be instrumental in making the guest enjoy their experience, and his parallel from a culinary perspective was that his guests would make a decision to enjoy the food, not just ‘have a meal’ – that it would be a choice you would be making.
Heston mentioned that he was interested in opening a restaurant in Franschhoek, South Africa years ago, but has since centred his focus on his newer projects closer to home. His favourite South African flavours are our bobotie and the distinctly South-African biltong and was keen to incorporate it into his menus. He remembers on his visits to South Africa as a child, he really loved Juicy Juicy (the juice bars found in all major malls), monkey gland sauce (which used to be popular as a sauce in the Spur Steak ranches) and he absolutely loved our guavas. Blumenthal calls his scientific approach to cuisine “multi-sensory cooking”. He describes his menu as ‘your itinerary for the day’ and you are presented with a treasure island-like map filled to the brim with nostalgic food memories translated into a multi-sensory experience.