Overall ranking: 9
Chef ranking: 3
Heston Blumenthal is one of just three British chefs to win three Michelin stars (and in record time). His reputation rests upon an innovative cuisine that combines classical French styles with a highly scientific approach to techniques and flavours known as molecular gastronomy.
The self-taught chef opened his Fat Duck restaurant in the Berkshire village of Bray in 1995. In 2002 he became a partner in the nearby Riverside Brasserie with former Arsenal footballer Lee Dixon and Alfie Hitchcock. Two years later, he sold his stake to Fat Duck colleague Garrey Dawson to focus on his Michelin-starred eaterie and his newly-acquired pub, the Hind’s Head, which is also in Bray.
What we think
Blumenthal has been described as a “culinary alchemist” and his fascination with molecular gastronomy has made him one of the most unconventional and revolutionary of chefs. His cutting-edge yet palatable flavour combinations include snail porridge, bacon and egg ice-cream, white chocolate and caviar buttons, nitrogen-cooked green tea and lime sour, and cuttlefish cannelloni of duck.
Born in London in 1966, Blumenthal discovered a passion for food whilst on a family holiday to France. He spent the next decade learning about food from books and from visits to France while working as a credit controller. In 1995 he took the plunge and opened the Fat Duck with no backing from investors, working up to 110 hours a week to get the business off the ground.
The Fat Duck gained its first Michelin star just four years later in 1998, its second in 2001 and its third in 2004. It has held five AA rosettes since 2001, scored 9/10 in the Good Food Guide in 2003 and, in 2005, was awarded the top score of 19/20 in the first round-up of London restaurants by French guide Gault Millau.
Blumenthal’s many awards include Catey Chef of the Year 2004, Catey Independent Restaurateur of the Year 2002, AA Guide Chef’s Chef of the Year 2002, AA Restaurant of the Year 2001 and Good Food Guide Chef of the Year 2001. By contrast, the revived Egon Ronay’s Top 200 Restaurant Guide for 2005 dismissed his cooking as “laboratory style” and filled with “gastronomic eccentricity”.
He is as likely to hobnob with scientists and psychologists as with fellow chefs. The former includes food science guru Harold McGee, whose book On Food and Cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen was pivotal in leading Blumenthal down the molecular path.
Substance abuse is also high on Blumenthal’s agenda and in 2004 he was named honorary vice-chairman for Hospitality Action’s Ark Foundation, which addresses the widespread alcohol and drug problems in industry.