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The Most Absurd Lines From Esquire U.K.’s Last Ditch Attempt to Salvage Heston Blumenthal’s Reputation

The “far quenelle,” the shape of water, and more stunning quotes

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award Ceremony Photo by Sam Tabone/WireImage

Remember when Esquire did a flame-fuelled profile of Argentine chef Francis Mallmann and asked whether the steak-grilling, womanising private island dweller was — beat — “THE MOST INTERESTING CHEF IN THE WORLD?”

That noble line continues in Esquire U.K. with a luxurious, impressionistic, very long profile of molecular gastronomy pioneer Heston Blumenthal, most recently famous for expressing retrograde views on women in kitchens and having his name on the door of a Melbourne restaurant that underpaid staff while making it very, very clear that he does not own that restaurant.

Here now, the best quotes and moments from that profile:

This divider: 1. LUNCH, BACKWARDS

This indicator of what kind of regular he is: “Heston Blumenthal had just started on his negroni, and sparked up a Marlboro, when a waiter approached and wondered if the famous chef would prefer to eat his lunch in reverse, as he had done once before at this restaurant: begin with petits fours, then pudding, followed by cheese, then main courses, starters, finally amuse bouche. The wine would go backwards, too: dessert, red, white.”

This ... Picture: “Blumenthal is a solid man of 53, burly, well fed, with a shaved head and spectacles in the shape of raised eyebrows — he has perhaps 60 pairs, made to his specifications by the London optician Tom Davies — giving him an appearance of impatient inquisitiveness. Blumenthal favours Nike trainers, jeans, and V-neck T-shirts, often with his own coat of arms printed on the chest, an assemblage of symbols that took him seven years to design and is, he told me, unexpectedly, his proudest achievement. It includes his motto: “Question everything.”

This reflection on the notion of eating lunch backwards: “The notion had a whimsical, topsy-turvy, Lewis Carroll eccentricity to it, which is very Heston Blumenthal.”

This reflection on the notion of eating lunch backwards: “Also, it offered a chance to experiment on the taste buds, to surprise them into action, offer them something unexpected, and confounding, and fun, all of which is quintessentially Blumenthalian.”

This concession: “He is, if not mad, then certainly eccentric.”

This tongue-twisting truism: “You will struggle to find a profile of him that does not describe him as the Willy Wonka of the food world, as if Willy Wonka were not already the Willy Wonka of the food world.”

This reading of the meaning of the phrase, “make a fuss”: “The backwards lunch, then: could the kitchen do it at short notice, Blumenthal wanted to know? We didn’t want to make a fuss.”

Blumenthal, on anatomy: “We eat with our eyes and we eat with our noses and we eat with our hands and we eat with our emotions.”

This blend of Greek myth, social theory, fine dining’s male fixation, and Heston Blumenthal: “In terms of skill and reputation, Blumenthal operates at the Olympian heights of fine dining, with the other demigods of food-ism, one of late capitalism’s secular religions: Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, René Redzepi of Noma, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, and the eminences grises of French cuisine de haut en bas: Joël Robuchon, Alain Ducasse.”

Blumenthal, on his powers: “I could look at you in your eyes and change the taste of that wine.”

Blumenthal, on quantum sheep: “In the Seventies,” said Blumenthal, “sheep learned to roll over cattle grids around the world.” He didn’t mean that one flock circumnavigated the globe by rolling over cattle grids. He meant that in a near-simultaneous moment of inspiration, or unseen intercontinental extrasensory communication, or quantum something, multiple flocks of sheep around the world realised, if that’s the word, that they could cross cattle grids by rolling over them.”

Blumenthal, on the universe: “We talk about the universe expanding? I think it’s breathing.”

This description of Blumenthal’s wife, Stephanie: “His mistress, a petite, stylishly dressed Parisienne in her early thirties, with a tumble of tawny hair and a highly attuned bullshit detector.”

Blumenthal, on airline air conditioning: “I know the temperature of most of the airlines,” he said, meaning the cabin temperature of passenger aircraft. “British Airways is 21. Qantas, 22. Singapore, 23 to 24 depending. Emirates is 25°C.”

Blumenthal, on the very core of human identity: the difference between a “human being” and a “human doing.”

This divider: 3. THE FAR QUENELLE

Blumenthal, on frozen dairy: “What happens if you do exactly the opposite, intentionally fuck up the ice cream?”

Blumenthal, on relationship building: “Some French guy walked past and said something to me so I threatened to smack him,” he remembered. “Probably not a common thing for a young commis to do. I heard this voice saying, ‘What are you doing over there? Come over here.’ It was Marco [Pierre White, the future enfant terrible of English cooking]. He was on the meat section. We became friends.”

Blumenthal, on his career: “I know I can do that, I know I can cook”

This musical interlude: “Meanwhile, as the cypress trees whistled past, and Winter negotiated oncoming agricultural vehicles, Blumenthal talked us through his developing tastes in music.”

Blumenthal’s response to ‘Starry Starry Night’: Blumenthal twisted towards me, raised his spectacles and pointed at his left eye. It was filled with tears. “See?” he said, and he gritted his teeth.”

Blumenthal on his restaurant business being complicated: “It’s not my business,” Blumenthal explained. “I sold it to my uncle years ago, so I could get on with what I’m telling you about now. It’s run by his company. It’s very complicated.”

This divider (Sorry Francis): 5. THE BEST CHEF IN THE WORLD

Blumenthal’s wife on marriage: “With Heston,” she said, “sometimes I say, ‘Non. It’s a lot of bullshit’.

Blumenthal on his comments on women in kitchens:

Blumenthal on the underpayment of staff at Dinner by Heston in Melbourne: