The Fat Duck’s Head Chef tells Good Things’ Editor Zoë Perrett about must-have gadgets, notable dishes, and why what you leave out is just as important as what you put on the plate.
Taking the helm at Heston Blumenthal’s fabled Fat Duck is a pretty big ask for any chef, but Jonny Lake, in his rather quiet way, is obviously up for the challenge. Before taking up the role of chef de partie, Jonny worked as a chef in his birth country of Canada, and in restaurants across Italy.
What do you consider to be unique merits of Canada and Italy’s food culture?
‘In dining terms, Canada is still a relatively young country with a multicultural population. The gastronomy is really varied, but has grown without a constraint of how things have to be done. It’s actually quite liberating. Italians, meanwhile, have so much culinary heritage, and an incredible collective knowledge of ingredients and recipes. Working in that country demonstrated to me just how much food defines a culture.’
But British cuisine is the one that truly captured your imagination?
‘The UK has an amazing food history that for myriad reasons had become overlooked. Over years of fascinating research with the kitchen archives at Hampton Court Palace and The British Library, we’ve unearthed a phenomenal heritage of ingredients, techniques and recipes that match any gastronomic cultural identity in the world.’
Although history and tradition are the backbone of The Fat Duck’s menu, the whole shebang is brought to life – and bang up-to- date – through the clever implementation of scientific concepts and techniques, and some very modern technology. Jonny’s go-to food book is Harold McGee’s and he admits to being a bit of a gadget man.
Your top three bits of kit?
‘Our Josper wood/charcoal oven, Selmi’s chocolate tempering machine, and, as a kitchen that takes staff coffee very seriously, a Technivorm moccamaster coffee machine.’ Beyond that trio, he considers ‘The Rocket’ to be the piece of equipment that’s revolutionized both his sweet and savoury dishes since it entered The Fat Duck’s kitchen a good few years ago. Essentially, it’s a big evaporator, ‘which reduces stocks, juices and other liquids without the use of heat. It’s amazing – producing flavour concentrations that we just couldn’t achieve before.’
That’s all well and good, but not many of us can build a Rocket in our own home kitchens. So how would Jonny recommend us home cooks add a bit of magic to our cooking?
To find out, order your copy of Good Things’ Summer 2016 issue to read the full feature and discover more behind this extraordinary chef.