July 15, 2011 10:17 pm

The Inventory: Heston Blumenthal

‘If I lost everything, I’d still cook. If I couldn’t cook, I’d do nothing’
Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal in the kitchen

Heston Blumenthal, 45, is famous for his experimental approach to food and cooking. The Fat Duck, his restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, holds three Michelin stars. He was awarded an OBE in 2006.

What was your earliest ambition?

Putting aside racing driver, pilot and superhuman-gladiator-type Action Man ambitions, my first serious one was to be an architect. I got the Royal Institute of British Architects’ prospectus and remember thinking “Oh my God, this is a lot of work.”

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

The John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe. As I progressed, it became evident I was not university material. I left with an A-level in art, I didn’t even pass O-level chemistry. Then I did all sorts of things, from manual labour to selling photocopiers. I’m not a natural salesman.

Who was or still is your mentor?

French chef Alain Chapel, food writer Harold McGee, whose book changed my whole approach to cooking, and Professor Tony Blake.

How physically fit are you?

My shoulder is knackered, it needs an operation, other than that I’m pretty fit. I kickboxed for years and I’ve done lots of gym work.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Ambition. You can succeed without talent – but you have to decide what you want.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No, never.

Ambition: to promote sous-vide cooking

How politically committed are you?

I’m not. I was always Conservative because that’s what my dad voted, then New Labour came in and everything got muddled; Labour became less left and the Conservatives became less right. At the moment I don’t have strong feelings.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yes. We had a carbon audit done on The Fat Duck a few years ago.

Do you have more than one home?

No.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Time.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Spending time exercising. And skiing; I could ski all day, I just love it. I’m in a beautiful setting, I’m active, it’s an escape.

In what place are you happiest?

Probably up a mountain. And anywhere that I’m learning new stuff and being creative, which is more about being in a place in my head where ideas come up.

What ambitions do you still have?

I want to try and break sous-vide cooking into the domestic market. Cooking in water baths results in food with better nutritional content; it’ll put the home cook up there with professional chefs.

What drives you on?

Fear of failure. And I like to pull out of my comfort zone.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

I’m currently designing a coat of arms but I’ve put it on the back burner because I wanted to think about it and not rush it. I don’t know yet what will be on it. Something to do with cooking; The Fat Duck is my labour of love. And Alice in Wonderland.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Either The Fat Duck’s third Michelin star or the OBE.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Serving oysters with the norovirus in them in 2009. When you try to give pleasure to people, to see it all unravelling was awful.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“Well I never.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Start again. I don’t know if I’d do exactly the same thing, but I’d cook. If I couldn’t cook, I’d do nothing.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, so long as the person who has the choice is of sound mind.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I’m kind of agnostic about it. While I don’t have firm beliefs, I wouldn’t say it’s a load of rubbish.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

On a good day, 10. On a bad day, two.

‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’ by Heston Blumenthal is published by Bloomsbury on October 3

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