Kitchen innovator Heston Blumenthal entertained scores of shoppers his anecdotes and cooking tips at Bluewater yesterday (November 12).

The celebrity chef was at Bluewater yesterday (November 12) for the grand opening of the new Steamer Trading cook shop where held a Q&A with fans, signed copies of his latest book Historic Heston and demonstrated his range of Sage appliances.

It will be a busy few months for the 48-year-old who is in the process of packing up his famous Fat Duck restaurant and taking it – complete with 70-odd staff - from Bray to Melbourne for six months while the kitchen is refurbished.

The temporary Fat Duck will open Russian doll-style inside Heston’s Dinner restaurant, which will then open properly when the Duck has flown back to Blighty after its 20th anniversary in August.

Demand for a table at the touring eatery has been such that a ballot system had to be set up.

With this latest venture plus a string of other food outlets, books and TV shows, Heston admitted told the audience at his Q&A that his keeps pinching himself at his success.

People fly across the world to eat at one of his restaurants and the likes of his triple-cooked chips and Christmas pudding with and orange inside have become the stuff of legend.

Known as an innovator and a scientist in the kitchen, he explained where his inspiration came from.

He said: “I have been lucky enough to find something I love.

“I wasn’t inquisitive as a kid at school and then I read a book by a mate of mine called Harold McGee on the science of cooking.

“I taught myself the basics of classical French cooking over the years and one of the things I read and saw and heard again and again was ‘I’m sealing the meat’.

“Harold said browning your meat does not seal in the juices.

“It’s one of those biblical rules of the kitchen but it’s nonsense. Then he went on to explain why and then it is really obvious.”

If browning meat sealed the juices, there would be no sizzle in the pan and it would be impossible to cook a well done brown steak because you couldn’t get the juices out, he explained.

Likewise, poaching meat would suck all of the juices out.

What happened, he said, is that meat is like a sponge and the fibres squeeze together as they get hotter, squeezing the juices out.

He said: “At that point, I’ve gone ‘wow, if that isn’t true how many other things that I’ve been reading about aren’t true?’”

He did add: “Browning meat is still really important because it gives you flavour and a crust.”


Heston explained he didn’t know where his unusual name came from, but he did have some explanations as to where it didn’t...

He said: “It is one of those names when you grow up you go through a period where you just want to be called John. My parents obviously had a good sense of humour.”

“I didn’t know so I asked my mum if she had a penchant for Charlton Heston.

“No, no, she just thought it was a good name.

“When I got my third Michelin star in 2004 I wasn’t really experienced at doing big interviews and I was in Spain and I did this interview with a guy from the Times.

“He said ‘where does your name come from?’ I said ‘I don’t know, I was born in 1966. My folks probably had a night off in London and parked up at Heston Services.’

“I kid you not, front cover of the Times ‘Top Chef Named After Parents’ Love of Motorway Services’. It took me a year of apologising to my parents.”

The celebrity chef also explained that his name is not too wholesome in Greek.

He was in the green room at The Jonathan Ross Show when US comedian Tina Fey, who his half-Greek told him it meant ‘s*** on you’.

He said: “The next day I went to work and the Maitre ‘D Dimi is Greek. He had been with me for five years. I said to him, ‘Dimi, does my name mean ‘store high in transit on you’ in Greek’.

“He looked at me and went ‘yeah’.

“I said ‘how come you never told me’.

“He said ‘I didn’t have the heart’.


Lots of us will be cooking turkey this year, and with a little help from Heston yours could be the best ever.

Check out his books for full details, but here’s some quick tips he shared at the Q&A:

Milk powder

Dust the meat in milk powder before cooking to aid the browning process. It’s great on the wing tips for stock.

Heston said: “It seems a bit weird but it won’t taste of milk. Skimmed milk powder is just protein and sugar. It is like putting petrol on fire. If you are going to make a stock, just dust the meat with milk powder before you roast it.”


Leaving your meat in a low-level brine – around 70 grams of salt per litre of water – for six to eight hours will keep your meat moist.

He said: “What happens is that lower level brining changes the structure of the protein and causes the meat to retain more moisture when it’s cooked.”

And rest

“Resting is so important. Let it rest for at least 45 minutes,” Heston said.

“If you cook something and your oven is at 180 degrees (for example), all of the energy from the outside is being absorbed by the protein.

“When you take the meat out, that absorption of energy is going to continue. That carry-over cooking is something you need to account for.”


Meat is more tender if you are not having to chew through the fibres, which run parallel to the bone. Try taking the Turkey breast off entirely before slicing as the change of angle will make it taste much more tender.


Try adding Dijon mustard and vinegar to your gravy. The acidity will make your mouth water more, which is a good thing.

Kitchen gizmos

Not just for Christmas, Heston said there are three essentials you need in your kitchen: scales and a temperature probe and an oven thermometer.

He said: “You would be amazed at how many ovens, even expensive ones, are 30 degrees out. Too many people blame themselves but if your kit doesn’t work you’ve got no chance.”