Heston or Hugh? Sous-vide risk

Scientists from Public Health England analysed 34 meals from restaurants, hotels and pubs which were mostly made up of chicken or duck breast cooked in a water bath.

They found the ‘sous-vide’ method of simmering vacuum-packed foods in a water bath could increase the risk of food poisoning.

The technique, pioneered by celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal, is lauded for its ability to preserve flavour and texture, but it braises food well below the 100C boiling point of water

Sales of sous-vide machines, which can cost up to £400, are reported to have increased by around 300 per cent in recent years in the UK 

The results, in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, showed ten had ‘unsatisfactory’ levels of bacterial contamination and another eight were borderline.

Microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington, who investigated the deaths of 21 people in Scotland in 1996 from an outbreak of E.coli, said: ‘I would not want to eat anything that had not been heated through properly.’

I’ll go with Hugh.

Heston still don’t know food safety, and Aust. viewers thought he was on acid

In late February 2009, complaints from customers who suffered vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms began pouring celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s UK restaurant, the Fat Duck.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that 529 patrons paying a ridiculous amount of money for food-porn styled dishes were sickened with Norovirus – this at a restaurant that only seats 40 patrons per night — introduced through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant that may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Last night, Heston appeared on Australian current affairs program, The Project, and left hosts and viewers scratching their heads.

Appearing on the show to promote the announcement of the world’s 50 best restaurants, Blumenthal was asked a simple question by Waleed Aly but gave the world’s most confusing answer, with some viewers joking he might have been on “acid.”

“What is it that makes a great restaurant?” Aly asked.

“This might seem a little tangential,” Blumenthal replied, which turned out to be the understatement of the year.

“Human beings became the most powerful species on the planet because through being able to imagine things that don’t exist we created shared beliefs. So all the things that happened after humans: religion, money, language, cultures, social media, fairy tales, they are very human being.

“The reason that happened was the brain trebled in size for lots of reasons but primarily through eating cooked food. It broke the food down and our gut changed and this [touches head] is on top of our body to protect, because this [touches neck] is where the next generation are prepared for life.”

Blumenthal’s answer was met with blank stares from The Project panelists, but the celebrity chef pushed on.

“And so the thing, we should be called omnivores or herbivores, we’re coctivores … we are interdependent beings,” he said.

“We’ve been able to work collectively in numbers larger than any other creature and our efficiency in group learning has become quicker, quicker, quicker, quicker. We don’t have to climb a mountain to get water every day, we don’t have to kill an animal to the death to feed our children.”

The Project’s resident smarty pants, Waleed Aly, interjected and said, “That explains why we like restaurants, but how do we tell the good ones from the bad ones?”

And Blumenthal was off again.
“We have two universes,” he said.

“We have our internal universe, our human being and we have our human doing. We have our feelings and our emotions and then we have getting on in life … The problem that’s happening is we are confusing the two things. We are thinking that our happiness is going to be developed by a numerical system … thank god we have because that’s what’s got us to where we’ve got to.

(Hang in there, it’s almost over)

“There’s a palliative care nurse that wrote a piece in The Guardian last year, the most common things, regrets people had while they were passing away and it was they wished they lived a life true to themselves,” Blumenthal said.

“If every human being had an ambition not to have that feeling, and that’s because our new brain that came from eating cooked food … starts to fade and then our raw emotion comes through and we realise, actually, this is about emotion. Food is about emotion.”

Food is also about sustenance, enjoyment, socializing, and not making one barf.

Heston is a master of both food and words to make one barf.

‘It’s too early in the summer to be sick of beans’ Heston makes space food

Something may be lost in translation, but Heston-what’s-norovirus Blumenthal has inexplicitly been chosen to partner with French company Hénaff  to provide UK astronaut Tim Peake with dishes for his stay at the International Space Station.

henaffAccording to a press release forwarded by our French friend, Heston developed gourmet recipes such as beef stew with mushrooms and truffles, sausages with onions, lemon tart, apple tatin … enough to provide variety and please the astronaut who will celebrate Christmas in space.

This collaboration is part of a partnership established in 2013 between the company Hénaff, CNES and Ducasse Training and Education Councils.

The constraints of life aboard the station required specific manufacturing processes: Zero bacteria, low residual moisture content to not generate floating liquid bubbles, and not too dry crumbs, among other considerations.

Heston don’t know food safety

Amy and I both had an idiosyncratic experience in Melbourne over the weekend while celebrating Sorenne’s sixth birthday: we read a newspaper.

heston_blumenthalIn print.

On the cover of the Saturday magazine was a fawning piece about chef Heston Blumenthal, who is packing up his famed Fat Duck restaurant and moving it to Melbourne for six months, while the UK location undergoes renovations.

Amy read the piece and said, “I know why he made those 550 people sick at The Fat Duck: he has no training and only four weeks of restaurant experience before opening The Fat Duck.”

Unsurprisingly, the piece doesn’t mention that nasty outbreak of Norovirus that sickened 529 at the Fat Duck, which only seats some 40 people a night, so the virus was circulating between staff and patrons and back again.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that Norovirus was probably introduced at the restaurant through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Heston shills for Coles, Jamie Oliver shils for Woolworths, and both suck at food safety.

Why does Australia have to rely on overrated Brits for food porn?

So in Feb. 2015, when Blumenthal will leave his British power base and bring his beloved Duck, including almost its entire staff to, of all places, Melbourne’s Crown Casino, I won’t be attending.

The restaurant is being built here, and will operate for six months (while the English Fat Duck building is renovated). Then, when it closes, a second Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant on the same site will remain permanently in Melbourne.

Norovirus chef Heston Blumenthal defends $500 price tag for Fat Duck Australia pop-up

Like I’ve written before, all the hacks are headed to Australia to make a buck (I actually live here, because of my wife’s career).

heston_blumenthalAging rock stars, actors, and celebrity chefs, they’ve all done, or are doing, the tour of Australia.

Norovirus-isn’t-my-fault chef Heston Blumenthal — whose famed Bray, England restaurant Fat Duck is popping up in Australia next year — has come under fire for the hefty price point of its tasting menu. The pop-up, which will take place in Melbourne, will cost $525 AUD ($475 USD) per person, excluding beverages. Not only is it more expensive (about $75 more) than the original price in England, but Good Food AU notes that this makes it one of Australia’s “most expensive restaurants.” Blumenthal believes the price is justified: “We’re basically picking up the entire kitchen and staff from the Fat Duck and relocating across the world.” Blumenthal must also house his 50 or so British staff for six months.

Careful with those raw oysters, which sickened 550 a couple of years ago in the UK.

He also added that “the cost structure for the Duck is like no other restaurant in the world. It can take one chef days just to make one item for the menu. Dining at the Duck is four and a half hours of entertainment.” In theory that’s just over $100 an hour for a “multi-sensory gastronomic journey of history, nostalgia, emotion and memory.” The reservation line opens October 8 and will close October 26. Fat Duck Australia will pop-up from February 3, 2015 to August 15, 2015.

I won’t be going.

Shurley you’re kidding; Norovirus advice for Australian celebrity chef from Heston

Australian celebrity chef George Calombaris says a gastro outbreak among diners at one of his restaurants was the toughest week of his career.

Norovirus  was identified as the cause of the gastro outbreak among nearly 100 diners at Hellenic Republic in Kew on Mother’s Day.

heston_blumenthalThe MasterChef judge says the incident was not only difficult for him but for all 300 staff working in his restaurants.

He turned to British superstar chef Heston Blumenthal, who was in Australia at the time, for encouragement.

“I was very lucky that week. I had Heston in town and he was a big support for me because he has gone through it twice,” Calombaris says.

Blumenthal’s three Michelin star restaurant The Fat Duck will temporarily move to Crown in Melbourne and open in February next year.

God help Melbourne.

FSA seeking for research on norovirus removal from oysters

Norovirus in oysters is a global issue and the UK Food Standards Agency, home of piping hot, is looking for some research help. As the virus bioaccumulates and is tough to cook out of shellfish, lots of folks are looking for virus removal strategies.Beautiful-Opened-Oyster

According to Fish Farmer, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is inviting tenders to design and execute a research study to identify and evaluate possible enhancements to improve norovirus removal from live oysters during shellfish depuration processes.

The FSA wants to commission work to quantify and optimise the effectiveness of standard UK depuration practices in reducing norovirus in oysters and to explore the potential for novel approaches to significantly improve the effectiveness of this process.

The study should include reviews of relevant available evidence (published and unpublished) as the starting point for a fully justified laboratory-based project which will improve the controls that can be applied to current UK depuration practices, to reduce the levels of norovirus in oysters sold for public consumption.

Maybe Heston Blumenthal is on the review panel.  If so, research into food handlers working while ill might predictably be next on the docket.

Restaurant in Nova Scotia quickly closes after reports of norovirus

While details remain slim, it appears a Nova Scotia restaurant did what celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal didn’t: close at the first sign of illness.

And contact health types.

Harbourfront restaurant The Bicycle Thief temporarily shut its doors Saturday evening as “a precautionary step” after learning that several staff and customers were showing norovirus symptoms, owner Stephanie Bertossi said in a news release.

The restaurant will reopen at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Individuals who had symptoms reported feeling better within 12 hours,” said Bertossi.

“As soon as we became aware that some staff were ill, we contacted the Department of Agriculture to advise of the situation and they have been exemplary in working with us to ensure the well-being of our customers and staff,” said Bertossi.

“At our request, an inspector from the Department of Agriculture will be at the restaurant Monday.”

Ozzie and Heston not welcome in my kitchen

Dr. Oz did a show a couple of years ago, would your home pass a restaurant inspection?, that was broadcast the other day in Australia (Days of Our Lives is at least two years behind; it’s all background).

Forget the flaws in the methodology, the risk amplification inherent in feeding a family and feeding 1,000 people a day, the television nonsense: Dr. Oz willingly lets his cat on the kitchen food prep counter.

And Heston-norovirus-Blumenthal has great food prep tips, but still don’t know food safety. For his latest show (which may also be two years behind) he “takes off his chef whites and steps into a domestic kitchen to show viewers how to inject some Heston-style magic into homemade cooking.”

What I briefly saw was a Mitt Romney-styled I’m one of the boys segments, as a local rugby team arrived by boat at his country home and they all took a turn grinding beef for burgers on the barbie; outside on a table. Cross-contamination everywhere.