Heston still don’t know food safety: Fat Duck Melbourne

A friend asked me while walking home after depositing the kids at school today, “You hear about that $525 a meal restaurant in Melbourne?”

heston.blumenthal.3.09I launched into a five-minute tirade about the food safety failings of Heston Blumenthal, ending with, that’s probably more than you wanted to know.

“Yeah, that’s OK, it’s what you do.”

Yesterday, the first diners were welcomed into The Fat Duck Melbourne, one of the world’s most anticipated restaurant openings of this year.

They were the first of just 14,000 people who will over the next six months get to experience a 4 ½ hour “gastronomic journey of history, nostalgia, emotion and memory,” as Heston describes a Fat Duck meal delivered over more than 14 courses.

And they each parted with $525 a head — before drinks — for the privilege.

First impressions were overwhelmingly positive.

“I’ve done a lot of work looking at the DNA of the Duck. What is the DNA of these experiential, narrative, contextual dishes? It’s all about memories and experiences,” Heston said.

The diners probably didn’t hear about Heston’s nasty outbreak of Norovirus that sickened 529 at the Fat Duck in the UK in 2009, 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.

Food porn if you like, but get the basics right first.

Today (or yesterday, Feb. 3) in 1959, a plane crash near Mason City, Iowa, killed Buddy Holly, J.P. The Big Bopper Richardson and Ritchie Valens.

Buddy Holly got the basics right.