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The Big Fat Duck Cookbook Hardcover – November 11, 2008
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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“The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is the biggest (10 pounds with box), the most expensive ($250) and the most flamboyant (four brightly colored silk marker ribbons, uncountable full-page color illustrations and gatefolds, mainly caricatures of Mr. Blumenthal gliding through a dreamland of foods) cookbook in a bumper year. But like its author, who turns out to be a clear and even affecting writer, there is gravity holding the rocket in orbit. In the back, you will find deadly serious essays on such matters as the effect of heat on meat protein or "ice cream science," by himself and his entourage of university food scientists along with detailed rundowns on new kitchen tools such as refractometers. But all of this is stagesetting and infrastructure for the recipes with the wacko names, the sci-fi techniques and the eureka tastes and flavors... Makes you want to call Bray immediately to get a table at the earliest opportunity, which is two months from now. Meanwhile, there's the book.” ―Wall Street Journal
“The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is itself a work of art, combing a luxurious package with striking page layouts and artwork. Its recipes are almost the least of its appeal: Blumenthal's accompanying essays are the meat of the text and make for a fascinating 500 pages of reading.” ―Metroland (Albany, NY)
“I have never been so captivated, visually, by a cookbook (my own books excluded, of course), primarily by the illustrations, the playfulness of them, the exuberance of spirit they convey. A brilliant move to include these. The food photography is stunning, I think, because it's so big and Blumenthal's food is so dramatic... Huge congratulations to Blumenthal and his team for this over the top, way over the top, effort.” ―Michael Ruhlman
About the Author
Chef Heston Blumenthal has been described as a culinary alchemist for his innovative style of cuisine. His work researches the molecular compounds of dishes so as to enable a greater understanding of taste and flavor. His restaurant The Fat Duck, in Bray, Berkshire, was awarded three Michelin stars in 2004, and voted the Best Restaurant in the World by an international panel of 500 culinary experts in Restaurant Magazine's list of the World's Best Restaurants 2005. Heston Blumenthal lives in Berkshire with his wife and three children.
Top Customer Reviews
This book is an accomplishment worthy of telling Blumenthal's tale of discovery and evolution. It is in fact exactly what I had been looking for every time I had previously purchased an overgrown coffe-table cook book... usually to be let down by the quality, format or content.
Those three aspects: quality, format and content drive the perfect rating I served up. The book is weighty, with high quality paper so thick you will swear that two pages are between your fingers, not one. I seemingly always have trouble with book bindings that fall apart... not this time: the Fat Duck is quite well bound with marker-ribbons for placekeeping.
The art inside is a blistering barrage of jazz-era, inked sketches of Blumenthal at various stages of discovery superimposed upon vividly colored, intriguingly compelling and sometimes darkly disturbing swaths of imagery. If asked prior to reading the Fat Duck, art in a cookbook would have been the component I consider least important to it's overall success. In contrast, here the art is an essential component, almost like theme music that drives audience emotional investment in a theater performance. The photographs are also of exquisite quality and sharpness, even when comprising the entire page.
The Fat Duck is formatted into three sections: History, Recipes and Science. The history section (~125 pages) is a autobiographical tale that really emphasizes how unique Blumenthal's journey has been. His amazing priority of food exploration and inquisitiveness come across clearly in this section. The conversational, fireside manner of the discussion makes it eminently readable.Read more ›
The first third of the book is the entire history of the Fat Duck, which includes a lot of Heston's philosophies about food and engaging the senses.
The middle of the book is packed with recipes, many are famous, some are not, and a couple never made it onto the menu. Each dish includes some background, and complete, exacting recipes for every component. These are not simplified for home cooks and call for many obscure ingredients and pieces of equipment. These are the exact recipes used in the restaurant.
The last third of the book is a veritable textbook of food chemistry, with articles by a handful of scientists who have worked with Heston over the years. For disciples of Heston's style of cooking, this will likely be the most useful part of the book.
The price tag may seem steep, but for any serious cook, it is an invaluable tome of information. While the Alinea cookbook was very sterile and straight-forward, the Fat Duck book is much more engaging and playful. And besides, it's pretty much the ultimate coffee table book for foodies.
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.
As 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.Read more ›
So I dragged my partner to this bookshop, and asked them to open the book - it's wrapped in plastic and covered with cardboard which is also wrapped in plastic and then in a cardboard box. Which - you guessed it - is also wrapped in plastic. Very recycling friendly.
Anyway, way back then they opened up this book and we spent an hour or so looking through. It was amazing - I was blown away by the art, my partner was really into the science behind the recipes.
We didn't buy it then. I wanted to but we were looking at $500+ and he wasn't that excited. So I bought The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (which is also awesome!).
Then he started watching Heston on tv, understanding more about how chefs get their ideas, thinking about what he does when he cooks... So I finally got this for him and he was the most happy I've ever seen him. Seriously.
This is something that he'll treasure for ever, drool over, wear gloves while he turns the pages and drip food over while he tries the recipes. And I love it because I think Dave McKean is AWESOME. And I like food that has been loved while it was built.
Possibly a specialist book, but honestly your average food geek will love it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant book, but a little big (and fat) for kitchen use. Beautifully produced, the book feels rich and the contents will boost your IQ by at least 5 points.Published 14 months ago by J. Hutchins
Heston Blumenthal is a genius and this cookbook is brilliant because it not only shares beautiful, exciting food recipes, but also the thought process behind them. Read morePublished 18 months ago by J. Jonak
Great book, definitely not for the home cook. One of my all time favoritesPublished 24 months ago by chefbrady12
A little disappointed that the interior production values did not match the packaging which was exceptional - perhaps this was the marketing tool employed by the publisher. Read morePublished on March 6, 2014 by carol jarvis
The book was a little pricey, but well worth it. I brought it as a gift and the receiver was blown away. Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by Phuong Tran
Wanted to read this but sceptical about spending so much in this day and age on a book. Took the plunge and have to say would not go back. Read morePublished on November 12, 2012 by Aaron