How to Cook like Heston
This DVD appeals to two prominent facets of my
Firstly, as an enthusiastic (very) amateur (largely self-taught) cook, I
have a virtually unquenchable appetite for food television. Nigella,
Jamie, Poh and company have been my mentors and my inspiration through
countless hours, until my partner exclaims in not entirely unfeigned
despair that I must have “watched the entire internet” by now.
Secondly, as someone who strives to be a rational entity in an
irrational world, I am a strong believer in the scientific method.
So if you’re anything like me, awesome chef + scientific approach to
cooking = a recipe for televisual bliss.
I’d first come across Heston Blumenthal’s “molecular gastronomy” style
in earlier productions such as 2005’s Kitchen Chemistry (a
low-budget affair peppered with alarming close-ups of Heston’s face in
what I have to assume was an attempt to make the talking head more
interesting) and Heston’s Feasts (in which truly ridiculous
dishes are constructed for the delight of B-list celebrity dinner
guests), but How to Cook Like Heston was the first offering to
combine high production values, scientific principles, and achievable
methods for the average viewer to create Heston’s dishes in his or her
Each episode takes one common ingredient, discusses some of the chemical
properties that should be taken into account when preparing it, and
presents several recipes featuring that ingredient. The analysis takes
you right from selection of the appropriate item (e.g. the melting
points of various cheeses, the starch content of various potatoes) to
the crowning glory of a succulent roast chicken or a super-stringy
cheese fondue, with lots of carefully explained tips and tricks along
Of course, it’d be disingenuous to present you with a rave review
without having empirically tested some of Heston’s recipes, so I can
report that the roast chicken method is a complete knock-out. Without
giving too much away, the secret is brining and then slow-cooking, and
the results were such that I will never go back to the dark old days of
sticking an unbrined bird into a hot oven. Never! His simple tips for a
juicy, rare steak are also very useful. However, I must also report with
some chagrin that Heston’s technique for the ‘perfect’ soft-boiled egg
has caused me considerable confusion and several sub-standard
breakfasts. Either his method could use some tweaking, or I am an
imperfect vessel for his teachings.
Other minor niggles include over-reliance on pop rocks, which smacks of
style over substance, and a stretching of what might be considered
accessible techniques for the “average viewer” - bain maries and food
thermometers yes; liquid nitrogen, paint sprayers and blowtorches...not
so much. Finally, the jacket blurb’s reference to “myths inherited from
our mother’s kitchen” is a toe-curling example of casual sexism.
But I do forgive this program its little foibles, because it delivers
something different: a way to actually improve the food that we eat by
using (mostly) quite simple techniques to bring science to the kitchen.
And with its slick graphics, innovative camera work and charismatic chef
de cuisine, How to Cook Like Heston is a fun way to do it.