Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 16:07 UK

Magician aid in chef's new sorbet

By Steve Duffy
BBC News

Sue Perkins and Heston Blementhal
Writer and broadcaster Sue Perkins with Heston Blementhal at the Hay Festival

Not many authors would get a round of applause for describing a new apple sorbet.

But this is precisely what happened when celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal described his latest work in progress to a Hay Festival audience in Powys.

The dessert is being developed with the help of a magician and includes pouring whisky on top, exploding glitter and setting it on fire, without melting the sorbet, said the chef.

It is hoped the presentation of the dessert will work like a magic trick, Blumenthal told the audience at the literary festival.

The chef also said he hoped to receive soon the final report into the sickness scare which caused him to temporarily shut his Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire.

It was shut for more than two weeks from 24 February after 400 diners complained of having fallen ill.

"We're still waiting for the final report and I have to be a little careful what I say...but it was definitely not food poisoning," he said.

If it had been called snail risotto with oats and parsley, the reaction might have been different
Heston Blumenthal on his snail porridge

Blumenthal added rumours he plans to open a restaurant in London, said to be at the Mandarin Oriental hotel at Hyde Park, were not confirmed.

"I've been talking with the Mandarin for a couple of years, as yet we've not signed anything. If it goes ahead it won't be for a couple of years and it won't be Fat Duck, but still in that line of thinking."

Blumenthal said he didn't like the image of his scientific approach being "chefs going around with test tubes."

"There's increasing technology around to cook with, so use it," he said.

He admitted the headlines generated by some of his experimental recipes, like snail porridge, might have been avoided.

"If it had been called snail risotto with oats and parsley, the reaction might have been different."

Eighty per cent of the work he did in his development kitchen, he admitted, was "boring".

He described how he held down jobs ranging from selling office equipment to being a bailiff as he studied the science of cooking, while devouring experiences in France on his holidays.

Britain wasn't revered for the quality of its cooking, You didn't cook with olive oil - it was something you put in your ear and got from the chemists
Heston Blumenthal

This including "eating" a car, or at least selling one to spend on gastronomic experiences.

"My wife's a midwife and between us we didn't have a great wage. We went to France for two weeks, visited cheesemakers, vegetable growers and various restaurants. We had an old Proton, sold it and basically ate the proceeds."

"I was born in the '60s, a '70s kid. Britain wasn't revered for the quality of its cooking. You didn't cook with olive oil - it was something you put in your ear and got from the chemists."

As a teenager, he was "knocked for six" on a family holiday to Provence, when they dined at a three Michelin star restaurant, where he was more influenced by the "sound of the crickets, the smell of the lavender, waiters with handle bar moustaches and a wine list like something by Cecil B de Mille, it was that big".

"I'm fascinated with how senses work, the whole package. There's something about the sights, the sounds, the smells," he explained.

He is also due to return with the TV cameras to the Little Chef at Popham after being brought by Channel 4 to help transform the menu, to see how the roadside chain restaurant have managed without him.

"Someone has phoned for a reservation - they have not had that before. A lorry driver came in and ordered a bowl of mussels!"

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