Heston: the shape of things
When one of the world’s most accomplished and revered chefs tells you that everything you thought you knew about water is not entirely correct, it is a bit of a challenge. Sure, you want to believe him, after all, you’ve been gifted a rare audience with an acknowledged culinary genius. But science doesn’t lie. Or does it? Technically, it doesn’t. The more accurate explanation is, what I learned back in high school physics classes over three decades ago, has progressed somewhat. New theories have been realised and the frontiers of science have extended beyond what I was taught back in 1980-something.
“Every era of mankind believes there is nothing else to learn, because they’ve explained everything,” says Heston Blumenthal, as if he was delivering a sermon. “Do you think we now know everything? (The obvious answer is, no). Thinking this way only starves us from the ability to learn anything new.”
This is the gospel according to Heston. By questioning the traditional ways of cooking food, delving into the detailed history of cuisine across cultures, and educating himself in the scientific processes employed across these realms, the avant-garde British chef and restaurateur has been able to subvert the dominant paradigm in everything from fine dining to backyard barbeques. He’s changed our idea of food, and collected swags of accolades for doing so, including Michelin stars and honory doctorates.
It is the ancient art of barbequing that enabled Selector to have this conversation. Australian company, Everdure, began making gas heating systems in Perth in 1935 and expanded into manufacturing barbeques in 2002. A few years later they decided to up their game and struck up a deal with Blumenthal, who was intrigued enough to turn his genius focus to re-defining how we barbeque.
Everdure by Heston Blumenthal launched in 2016 with a range of state-of-the-art barbeques. Recently, he and his team developed the 4K, so named because it is based on a 4,000-year-old Asian system of cooking with charcoal known as the Kamado, albeit, with a host of technological advances.
“This is standing on the shoulders of giants stuff,” says Heston when we discuss his latest barbeque offering.
“Clay,” he states, leaving a pause for dramatic effect. “Squishy stuff (another pause). Think about volcanos, lava, plasma, mucus – all of this sticky stuff. It ends up holding onto the little stuff, the light stuff.
“So when human beings look out into the atmosphere and think ‘Oh my God, there’s Saturn... We’re so insignificant.
‘Oh no, we’re not!’ We are as significant as a planet, as significant as a tree. And we are as significant as a grasshopper, or a flea.
“We are part of the connectivity of all living systems. And the little things make up the big things, but just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
The above spiel gives you some indication of what it is like to delve into the mind of Heston Blumenthal – a series of fantastical concepts, bound equally by fact and fiction, science and imagination, delivered as a stream of wild consciousness, all the while seemingly disconnected, but somehow, eventually, ending up making sense. Weren’t we talking about barbeques?
I suppose that’s how geniuses think. But if you can keep up with his rapid-fire thought processes, leaving mental ‘breadcrumbs’ along the way, a la Hansel & Gretel, the conversation is supremely entertaining and wonderfully enlightening.
To read the full story, pick up the latest issue of Selector Magazine at newsstands from March 7.