One of the world’s most celebrated chefs, Heston Blumenthal, has returned to Melbourne to launch his new TV series Inside Heston’s World.
On 7 March BeanScene attended the premier launch at the now-Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant at Crown Casino.
Heston moved his three Michelin-starred restaurant and its 70 staff members to Melbourne on 3 February 2015 for a six-month stint while refurbishments were made to the original 14th century The Fat Duck site in Bray, United Kingdom.
“I knew I was never going get a better opportunity than this in my life. I was nervous about it, but I just followed my gut instinct,” Heston tells BeanScene.
Heston recalls the day he made the announcement to his Bray staff like it was yesterday.
“It was a bout 5.30am in the morning in Melbourne with the sun just starting to rise with lots of hot air balloons in they sky, meanwhile it was Sunday night in Bray,” he says.
“The staff don’t work on Sunday so I called them all in. I told them that we’d close for Christmas as per normal, but we’re not going to open again. I didn’t want to leave too long a gap I thought it’d be too cruel, so I said, ‘everyone’s coming over to Australia. We’re going to move The Fat Duck to Melbourne.’ There was a pause, then there was this universal ‘yay.’”
What was to come next was one of the biggest challenges Heston and his team had ever faced. He had to juggle the creative evolution of the new The Fat Duck and the world’s expectations, while the restaurant itself in Bray was a building site.
The Fat Duck’s 70 UK staff made the journey over to Melbourne, relocating their lives, their homes, while some even re-schooled their children for the one-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I was so excited to create this whole multi-sensory approach I’d came up with,” Heston says.
“I’d known how good Australia’s produce is. I’ve been coming here for a long time, but the biggest thing I was concerned about was that because of Australia’s geographical distance from anywhere else, it didn’t have the constraints of classical French influences of cooking that dictates what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “With the Italian cooking structure for instance, you don’t have a cappuccino at lunch time. You don’t have spaghetti with ragù Bolognese. You just don’t do it, it’s not right. But Australia’s culture is different. It has the effect of TV shows like Masterchef, which exploded here, and a genuine food appreciation.”
Heston needn’t have worried. A total of 90,000 people entered the ballot to dine at the restaurant, and only 15,000 were lucky enough to experience the four-hour dining extravaganza.
“There’s no other country like Australia where people go to a restaurant wanting to be there, wanting to enjoy themselves. In some restaurants people walk in and they don’t want to be there, they’re ready to start complaining. Life’s too short for that. You’ll see in the documentary that some of the responses we got [from diners in Melbourne] were just fantastic,” Heston says.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has now replaced the previous The Fat Duck site at Crown Casino. There’s no longer a giant jigsaw on the walls or a Alice in Wonderland-theme with a giant pocket watch hanging on the wall, but what stands in its place is a remarkable ode to gastronomic history. Diners should expect a modern menu inspired by The Royal Courts of Britain, including items such as Meat Fruit (c.1500), Powdered Duck Breast (c1670) and Tipsy Cake (c1810).
It also has a dedicated barista serving Proud Mary coffee.
“I tried to tell the guys, ‘just you wait to experience Australia’s coffee culture.’ It’s really something else. Even as soon as you arrive here at the airport you can expect a decent enough coffee,” Heston says.
Inside Heston’s World not only documents that incredible move from England to Australia, but also gives a behind-the-scenes look at Heston’s constant search for perfection and the intense creative process The Fat Duck team faced daily.
“There are some interesting moments in it, but its real, personal, and it covers a lot of stuff,” he says. “The move is really all thanks to these guys (pointing to his team) who have made this happen – I jumped into the deep end and they came with me.”