two minutes with… Heston Blumenthal

As if we didn’t already know Heston’s unique take on food is a truly global animal, he’s now opened The Perfectionists’ Café at Heathrow. He explains to Shaun Curran the logic behind his latest move


Q What are you hoping to achieve with The Perfectionists’ Café at Terminal 2?
A The name comes from the TV series I did, In Search of Perfection, where we celebrated the favourite dishes we’d taken to our hearts in Britain – pizza, fish and chips, burgers, roast chicken. We visited the origins of each dish, then put our twist on it. Add in smoked salmon and champagne, and you have the dishes people want to eat the most at airports, so it all fitted in nicely. It’s also perfection in the sense that what we do is measured and tailored down to the finest detail. So you can still have the detail of a Heston meal, while being in a busy environment where time is at a premium.

Q What is your experience of airport food? How did that inform this approach?
A Like most people, it’s mixed. You’ll go to some airports and there are still homemade sandwiches in foil. In the UK and the US we’ve mastered the whole shopping and dining experience at the airport. And that’s great, because it’s winning back some of the status and majesty of air travel that has slowly evaporated over the years. Let’s get the romanticism back, and if that can happen through food, then great.

Q Are there be any common threads to the cuisine you serve at The Fat Duck or Dinner?
A Yes. First, the special effects, such as spraying a pickled onion juice atomiser when eating fish and chips for a fantastic nostalgia trigger; or our Cloud Pour at the bar, which uses dry ice to suffuse drinks with essences and flavours.
Second, it’s the science that goes into preparing the food. With burgers we realised we had to create a bun that could be squeezed so the whole thing is no more than three-fingers thick – that’s what will fit into your mouth. The burger meat is minced in the same direction, rolled into a big sausage and cut into burger slices upwards so you’re biting with the direction of the mince instead of against it, which creates a delicate bite.

Q Is the sourcing of fresh, local produce high on your agenda, or is that trickier in an airport environment?
A It’s tricky. We’ve had some delivery issues because everything has to go through security. Our aim is to create a quality product that doesn’t relent on style or effect. As time goes on we can look again at what we’re sourcing and from where, but for now it’s from traditional channels and we’re comfortable with that.

Q Can The Perfectionists’ Café go overseas as a concept, or will this only work in a UK airport?
Yes, the idea is to see how this does and potentially reproduce it overseas.

Q Most people don’t really like airports (lots of hanging around, bad food, etc) what kind of a traveller are you?
A Travel is exciting because, for me, it means discovery. Others travel to experience culture, architecture or scenery, and for me it’s about food. It’s an endless voyage and always exciting. That’s not to say travelling doesn’t sometimes get the better of me – it can be tiring – but it’s rewarding.

Shaun Curran

Picture: Clive Booth