Heston Blumenthal, the UK’s culinary alchemist and owner/chef of the three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck in Berkshire, UK, took a select group of food enthusiasts on an intimate, interactive taste journey at his spectacular ‘Evolution of Taste’ lunch event. The event was hosted and catered for by leading catering company Avocado Group at Sydney’s exclusive Tattersall’s Club.
The super chef, who regaled the audience with humorous anecdotes about his life and multimedia presentations of his extraordinary creations, was a huge hit – as was the stunning three-course menu designed by Avocado Group’s Executive Chef Rob Crawford.
From Tattersall’s elegant Chelmsford Room, Heston got his guests to experience his multisensory approach to food with an ‘at–table’ experiment that aptly demonstrated the essence of flavour, (created by the senses of taste and aroma combined). Guests were invited to pinch their noses and begin eating an olive – allowing them to experience the taste of the olive alone. When they released their noses whilst still eating the olive, the full flavour was released, giving them an important insight into how the senses are engaged when eating.
This multisensory perception was further explored with a presentation on one of his latest innovations, ‘Sounds of the Sea’. This novelty treats diners at The Fat Duck to an exquisitely designed seafood dish accompanied by a seaside soundscape from a shell-clad ipod and delivered to their table complete with headphones, to enhance the flavours of the dish whilst eating.
Heston devised ‘Sounds of the Sea’ after collaborating with Oxford University Professor Charles Spence, on an experiment into how sound influences the eating experience. When tested, people who listened to seaside sounds whilst eating seafood said that the flavour of the food was greatly improved. Interestingly, the sea sounds also changed their perception of how salty the seafood was; participants even claimed they tasted more salt when the sounds were played to them. According to Heston, this is due to the sense memories each of us has attached to familiar seaside sounds.
Heston’s meticulous attention to detail, famed love of historical British cooking and theatrical presentation of his food were demonstrated when he talked through his interpretation of the age-old recipe for Mock Turtle Soup, immortalised by Lewis Carol’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Taking days to complete, it involves creating a complicated cold reduction of the consommé, (which forms the basis of the soup) to preserve the full flavour, and culminates with an elaborate ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style presentation of the dish. It is served with a freeze-dried, gold-leafed consommé watch fob (resembling the Mad Hatter’s in the story), in a bone china cup. The fob is then diluted by the diner with hot water from a bone china teapot, and the resulting gold-flecked, flavoursome soup base is poured over a Mock Turtle egg, made from turnip mousse with swede purée, and little enochi mushrooms (to signify the Caterpillar’s toadstool!).
Being the chef tasked with creating the menu for Heston’s event could be a daunting challenge; but Avocado Group’s Executive Chef Rob Crawford lived up to the challenge.
‘It certainly felt a bit like being asked to make chocolate for Willy Wonka!’ said Crawford commenting on his first reaction to the event. ‘The challenge was to come up with something relevant and complementary to what Heston was presenting, but not to look like we were attempting to imitate. We wanted to do what we do best; and as Avocado Group’s focus has always been using fresh, unique, local produce and presenting it simply and cleanly, that’s exactly what we did. To accomplish this, we worked closely with our existing suppliers to gain inspiration and ideas, and we tested the menu well in advance. As a result, we could fine-tune it right up until the day before, although after speaking to Heston about his development times (which can sometimes be years), our six-week lead time would seem like a couple of hours!’
The event was a sell-out success and has gained many positive comments from the guests.
Guests were treated to delicious canapés of chilled Pacific oysters accompanied by lime caviar, and Ruby Chatz with mushroom and duck confit. These were followed by three courses consisting of NSW South Coast yellow fin tuna tataki with shichimi spice, cucumber salad, lemon foam and wakame wafer; slow-cooked Clarence River Valley veal with wattle seed, heirloom vegetables and saffron potatoes; and to finish, a date and blood orange pudding with kaffir lime and coconut ice cream, sesame biscuit and butterscotch.
All courses were expertly matched with vintage Moet & Chandon champagne and fine wines from John Boston Beverages, all served in exquisite Plumm glassware to bring out the wines’ flavours.