Self-taught ‘immortal’ chef Heston Blumenthal jazzed up the MasterChef kitchen on Sunday, setting the contestants two challenges to test their creativity.
“The way people move around the kitchen, the way they think, the way they panic… you very quickly realise that this is the best, the highest level,” he says. “Last year was high, but this year was really high.”
The first challenge, Heston’s mystery box, supplied the contestants with Australian ingredients like wallaby, emu and bush tomatoes. Inspired by an Anglo-Australian cookbook Heston found from the mid 1800’s, Heston wanted the contestants to be exposed to the role of food in Australian history.
“What fascinated me was learning about what people would eat at the time, the culture, and the ritualisation of your food,” he says. “There are hundreds of little things to learn.”
Heston has long been interested in historical recipes and he regularly looks to the past for inspiration.
“The most bizarre culinary creations came from the medieval times,” he says. “There was this one where they had live birds in this big pie. They’d crack the pie open, twenty black birds would fly out, and then there was the meat!”
The second challenge required the contestants to get a little more creative – turning liquids into solids. Each aspiring chef attempted to re-work classic cocktails, such as the whiskey sour, into solid food.
Heston was impressed: “Some great stuff was produced, I was really surprised,” he says.
Known for his experimental and theatrical style, Heston is credited with inventing recipes like mega-crispy triple-cooked chips and soft-centered scotch eggs.
So how can our current MasterChef contestants get that creative edge to produce truly unique dishes?
“To have an inquisitive mind is probably one of the healthiest things you can do,” Heston advises. “Just test things. That’s how you learn new things. Theories change.”
Check out Heston’s appearance on MasterChef here