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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Fat Duck Cookbook
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127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2009
Heston has an (scientific) obsession for making the best tasting and best looking food possible. This obsession is likely to make him legendary.

This is a cookbook for a small minority of customers. You must have an interest in molecular gastronomy methods. You must have a budget that allows you to eat at expensive restaurants. You must like odd people that don't conform to all the norms of society.

Other reviewers have pointed out the recipes are extremely complicated. A lot of details are given, but you should be prepared to shell out a couple of thousands of dollars on (used) equipment before you can get started. The book has some pictures of the dishes, but could do with more descriptive pictures.

However, this is just not a glossy book to boost the ego of its author. I find the discussion around taste, chemistry and visuals relating to each recipe very interesting. You really get a look into Heston's thought process. I don't think Heston has used a ghost writer. I would imagine this can inspire both professional chefs as well as amateur cooks, if so inclined. One place to start experimenting might be with the whisky gums, which don't require any expensive equipment.

Heston's general approach is to perfect a dish. You can set out to do something similar given your budget constraint. If you don't have a professional vacuum sealer maybe try with cheap 100 dollar device, and see what happens. Or my might use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air of the bag. The only thing you need is time!

There is one other audience for this book and that is people interested in the creative process in general. The long biographical essay describes an obsessive person setting out to do something creative. It is written in a fascinating manner, if and only if you are interested in the creative process. Actually this section could serve as ispiration for some young people to follow their intuition rather than go for a very safe career. For this type of reader, I can also recommend Adria's "A day at Elbulli".

I would recommend this edition of the book. It is a normal hardcover edition. There is also a superexpensive big edition. I would not recommend that unless you want to have a thick tome to impress. The cheaper edition is hardcover too, so more than enough for most people.

UPDATE: Now when Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is published, that should be your first serious book on the subject.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2009
I don't really like to review books online, as so much of the review is subjective. I'll make an exception for the Fat Duck Cookbook. It's that good.

First off, the recipes are amazing... as they should be, since they are the exact recipes used in Blumethal's world-renowned restaurant. They are also elaborate. If you decide to make one, think of it as a quest rather than as a traditional recipe to be made in an afternoon - most of these will involve a good deal of searching for ingredients, a large amount prep time, and sometimes specific equipment ranging from just hard-to-find to hard-to-find AND really expensive.

Even if you don't make the recipes... even if this book didn't HAVE any recipes, it would still be great. The photos and art are nearly worth the asking price on their own. Huge, glossy, detailed pictures of some of the most intricate and intricately plated dishes I've ever seen. Enough beautiful abstract art to justify it as a coffee table book in this respect alone. Furthermore, each recipe is accompanied by an essay on the development of that recipe and thoughts on exactly what makes that recipe work, or why previous iterations of it did not work as well. You don't have to make the recipes to find this type of commentary useful.

Then there are the other two thirds of the book. One is somewhere between an autobiography and a treatise on the author's culinary formation and thought process. Sound dull? It isn't. In part because of how well it is written - relatable, brisk, to the point. Even more so because of Blumenthal's enormous insight into both the art and science of cooking. He explains his process in creating and perfecting his food using specific examples. He alludes to the science he uses whenever applicable - his explanations are neither dumbed down nor are they a single bit more complicated or hard to understand than need be.

I found myself using a highlighter while reading it to mark things I wanted to look up later.

And as though Blumenthal somehow knew about my highlighter, he included as the last third of the book an index of terms, descriptions of equipment and ingredients, and essays on the scientific aspects of cooking and eating. Essay topics range from emulsions to how taste and pleasure are related via the brain. Most of these essays are not by Blumenthal - they are written by scientists who have influenced Blumenthal and added to his understanding.

I should point out, I guess, that this book is probably not for most culinary novices. The pictures might go over well, but the rest will be like showing calculus to someone who's still learning to add. But for pros and dedicated amateurs, I don't think a cookbook gets much better. It's inspiring, beautiful, and informative. As much as it can teach about the science of cooking, it has just as much insight into the art of cooking - what associations, effects, textures, contexts, and flavors make a dish great. In this way, it is just as invaluable to the classical cook as the cutting edge one. It prompts you to look at a dish and wonder 'In a perfect world, what could make this even better?' And suggests that whatever the answer is, it may well be possible.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2009
My goodness what a wonderful cookbook. Ok, so few will be making the recipes in here, but the Fat Duck isn't rated 2nd in the world because you can make the food at home. You will learn so many interesting things. Nitro green tea and lime mousse will make perfect sense after you read his thought process. It's great to be able to look into the mind of a genius for only $35. I love the Alinea cookbook but this is much better. I almost wish I would have splurged and bought the big version.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2012
I really like Heston Blumenthal's concepts, imagery and far out cooking ideas covered in this book. The issue I have is with the quality of this book. In the process of making it cheaper, than its more expensive original print, they managed to produce a book that doesn't appear to hold together well, the binding in my book is pulled back and the pages are on the edge of falling out and I only opened the book twice. Needless to say this book is headed back to amazon. I may consider a second copy of this book, but based on the other 2 copies I have seen in the wild this seems to be an issue with how this book is made. Be warned if you are purchasing this version that you will probably be getting a book with a week spine that could split at any moment. I debated on whether this warranted a 1 star rating but the content is worth 5 stars if you're lucky enough to get a good quality book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2010
...but not, really, a "cook book" as the recipes (lab protocols?) are extremely complex and require ingredients and equipment not likely to be stocked in your local grocery store. That being said, it's a book I'm glad I own.

The first third, at least, isn't a cook book at all--it's an autobiographical history of developing as a molecular-gastronomical chef. The writing is engaging and speaks with a clear personality; you get the sense that you'd really enjoy sitting down for a chat with the chef/author. The second section is recipes, including extremely entertaining back-stories for how they were developed, from the genesis idea to the trials and tribulations of execution. I laughed out loud reading the recipe for the oysters when he described creating a soundtrack (loaded on an ipod chip which was then inserted into a conch shell) to accompany the dish, as well as the "ocean scent" perfume that was developed by a master perfumer and smeared on fan blades to waft the scent of the sea over diners. And I haven't reached the third section, so I can't comment on that at all.

I am an avid home cook who regularly prepares multi-course, plated dinners for my friends and consequently have a neighborhood reputation for excess in the kitchen. I think the stories in this book might put my dabbling into perspective for my non-foodie friends.

The only thing I would have liked more of, since this is a book about inspiration more than instruction, would be more actual photos of the finished dishes. Many times there are only sketches or images the evoke the sense of the dish, but not the actuality. But all-in-all it's a beautiful book that you'll be happy to own.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2009
This book is absolutely gorgeous. It has amazing photos and is ubermodern and innovative. It is all molecular gastronomy cuisine and the measurements are in grams and use ingredients like "leather essence" and fructose and lots of liquid nitrogen. I recommend it as a coffee table book or a gift for someone who loves complex cooking and food.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book a few weeks ago and just recently got the time to actually read it. I think this is important to whether or not people will enjoy this book -- it is much more than a collection of recipes, but a fairly comprehensive history of Chef Blumenthal and The Fat Duck. Also, you must be at least somewhat interested in the type of cuisine expressed here (it seems that all of the 1-star reviewers didn't know what they were getting themselves into, and so did not enjoy the book). I enjoyed this immensely, and have read it almost cover-to-cover.

Do I expect to recreate these recipes at home? Of course not. And, unless you have an immersion circulator, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, et al in your home kitchen, neither should you. What this book is great for is following his train of thought to see just how he created the dish, and then using his concepts and recipes as imaginative springboards to take your thinking out of the "box" that many find comforting, but some -- like Blumenthal -- find claustrophobic.

If my copy was lost or damaged, I would buy it again. But would I buy it for a friend? Maybe. It entirely depends on the person, whether they will enjoy it or find it superfluous.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2009
There is no question that the first edition of Heston Blumenthal's book is an amazing creation; I would go to the point of calling it a work of art given its glorious design, originality and extraordinary photography. I bought the original very expensive version and was so impressed that I returned the next day to buy a copy for a friend, a distinguished chef.

Considering the significant reduction in price from the original release, this reissue represents excellent value. It must be noted however that the quality of the photographic reproduction, while good in itself, does not have the clarity and color definition found in the original. Additionaly the format size is somewhat smaller and the paper quality above average rather than exceptional. I realise that the first issue was very pricey, but my investment has delivered great dividends in enjoying its decadent luxury in private contemplation and impressing as well as sharing it with friends. In acquiring the cheaper edition it will still be possible to marvel at the extraordinarily complicated recipes, interesting text and beautiful photography. But if you can, try save your pennies and buy the original. I guarantee you won't regret the extravagance
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2010
A brilliant effort from all the contributors, it is masterfully done and a piece of art. It gives us some insight into what we take so for granted, "eating". It is not for "home cooks" and "recipe collectors".
I am sure in the next century Heston will be credited for such an effort.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 23, 2012
For some years I have been exposed to 'molecular gastronomy' in high end restaurants. At home, I am a dedicated and exploratory cook who tries to please my family while also showing them 'something new' from time to time. I look at books like the 'Fat Duck' out of general interest but also to look behind the 'restaurant' recipes for new tools and techniques that I can translate for home cooking. Blumenthal's book can be read in this way with profit: he presents a lucid review of equipment and of kitchen chemistry (that really just expands on familiar items like pectin, gelatine, cornstarch and arrowroot), using some less familiar but equally processed substances.

We hunt and have already been using an inexpensive vacuum sealer and this experience makes the equipment Blumenthal presents more approachable. Blumenthal is very understandable in his explanation of sous vide equipment and techniques, particularly their roles in preventing naturally low-fat products from drying excessively during cooking. Unlike others, he does not emphasize searing of an outside crust with a torch (you want to try that at home?); but he does regularly use a hot pan on a stovetop. One secret to actually using this book is to move away from the pretty pictures (they are breath-takingly well photographed) and to strip away the 'gourmet' proportions and fussy ingredients to focus on using the techniques on materials you want to prepare. Fish steaks and fillets can be done sous vide using his explanation of sous vide on salmon. Ideas for chicken and pork cuts are described. Adventurous eaters can move on to interesting preparations for quail and salmon. Other advanced technology is described for making fruit and vegetable purees, foams, gels and ice cream (this latter section gives a very understandable and informative explanation for controlling frozen crystal size and texture, for varying fattiness or sweetness and so on. It is unlikely that I will make any of his complete dishes but I will use some of the tools and tecniques at home.

To return to storage and portioning: sous vide bags provide an ideal way to pre-cook, store and then reheat practical portions for 'empty nesters' while moving beyond commercailly packaged 'dinners.' Blumenthal's description of using a less-known substance like transglutaminase to help beef, veal and chicken 'roll-ups' to keep their shape is a big help to me. Really, this is not a stretch in chemistry or in kitchen practice from using curing salts for hams and bacon. Using a precision machine to control water temperature is also a big help if you like a reliable way to make soft boiled or hard boiled eggs or if you want to pasteurize a custard base for icecream without worrying about it 'breaking.' Books like this very stylish production give home cooks the confidence to take what they can use and to actually apply the concepts with the help of the book's step by step guidance.

Other reviewers have spoken eloquently to the way Blumenthal explains his growth as a chef and the way that he uses logic and obsessive study and thought to develop original recipes and presentations. I enjoyed this aspect of the book as well. His idea of making a list of the characteristics he is looking for in a finished dish and using that list to find suitable ingredients and techniques to acheive his aim can be used by cooks at any level. I highly recommend this book for its information and for its entertainment level. It is a book that deserves to be kept before the public through continuing 'fresh' reviews.
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