Christmas arrived at Petworth House this week as celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal launched the historical home’s festive feast event and spoke exclusively to the County Times.
The party, hosted jointly by the National Trust and Cranleigh caterers ‘rhubarb’, showcased Petworth House’s ‘A Festive Feast for the Eyes’ experience on Tuesday December 3.
Heston said: “Walking around here, it looks like a combination of a Waitrose advert and one of the sets for my TV show, so I feel quite at home.”
The Michelin-starred chef has joined forces with ‘rhubarb’ to develop bespoke menus of delicious food using his signature twists.
The evening revealed Petworth House’s historical kitchen, scullery and chef’s sitting room dressed in elaborate designs for a winter wonderland feel, featuring an extensive gingerbread house, a renaissance-style dining set and a glimmering out-in-the-wilderness ambience.
Passionate about preserving British tradition, both in the kitchen and on the menu, Heston discussed his new show due to air on Channel 4 on December 10.
He said: “I’m in the middle of filming a series on dishes that built Britain - so roast beef, fish and chips, pies, puddings, curry and afternoon tea.
“Recipe books for the home cook is actually a pretty recent thing, before most of the records were from chefs to places like Petworth House, or sometimes these recipes were passed on as fishing stories. We had some crazy recipes, which never worked.”
But Heston admitted that pushing the boundaries with his own innovative creations has not made life easy for himself.
“If I do a new dish it has to have a story behind it and it has to be as good as the last one I’ve done.
“The story behind things like the mock turtle soup with the Mad Hatter’s tea - for me it’s the combination of looking at the mechanics of taste and flavour, like how we perceive it in the mouth and nose.”
The adventurous culinary expert has his limits, however.
“There’s a thing in Iceland called scatter which is a flat fish and they leave it till it gets ammonia, which preserves the flesh. I was on a fishing boat and I tried to eat it. I said ‘I’m going to swallow you’ and my throat said ‘no you’re not’ and it just refused to go down.
“It’s about nurture and the culture. For instance, insects. I guarantee in the next ten years supermarkets will be selling insects and actually if you think about it there are 40 tons of insects for every human on the planet.”
ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here’ celebrities are challenged to eat insects. Heston admitted he has been asked to appear on the show three times, but has always refused.
“I don’t have a problem with it. I told the director I will eat anything as long as you eat it, and three times he’s bottled out (laughs).”
Heston recently appeard on BBC’s Masterchef to show praise to Horsham contender Steven Edwards, 26, head chef at the Camellia Restaurant at South Lodge Hotel.