Big Chef Takes on Little Chef: Heston Blumenthal Tries to Spice Up an out-of-date Menu

Little Chef is in trouble and in their desperation they have called in Heston Blumenthal, he of the bacon and egg ice-cream fame, to turn around the fortunes of the company by completely redesigning the entire menu and bringing it into the 21st century.

Little Chef vs. The Fat Duck

Little Chef is a quintessential British eatery, everyone has memories of visiting one on a long drive on holiday and the symbol was one of the most recognisable road signs on the motorway. But it is quickly losing appeal and in 2007 the company went bust and had to be rescued by a new investment.

On the contrary The Fat Duck restaurant is considered one of the top eating establishments in the world and Blumenthal is often regarded as the most inventive and exciting chefs in Britain and his scientific approach to cooking means that anyone wanting to eat at his restaurant has to book months in advance.

But is a man renowned for unusual and expensive food the correct choice to help a place that for decades has sold cheap but filling meals?

British Twist – Lancashire Hotpot with Oysters and Meat Cooked in Hay

Although he was filled with energy and enthusiasm to rise to the challenge, the mission of trying to make eye catching food but on a commercial scale that can be produced quickly and cheaply soon looked like an impossible feat. Especially as he only has six months to finish it and he usually takes two years to perfect one dish.

The first problem he notices is that not only is the menu enormous but it has more reference to Asian and European food than it does British. So Heston’s idea is to create British classics with a twist, foods that people recognise but will still be exciting enough to rope in the punters. So he came up with cooking scrambled egg in water bath, Lancashire Hotpot with oysters and meat cooked in hay.

Britain’s Top Cook Defeated at the First Hurdle

The initial trial didn’t go down well as both the company and the customers did not seem impressed with the menu Heston has spent weeks creating. This almost went against everything the research had suggested as the people interviewed seemed to say that they preferred the original selection. So after the opening episode it’s now back to the drawing board for Britain’s top cook as he is defeated at the first hurdle.

For what could have been a very dull nostalgia trip Big Chef Takes on Little Chef was surprisingly pleasant viewing. If there’s any downside it’s that you don’t really get to see the thought process that goes into making a new dish, which is a let down for a mind that must be so interesting. Also those who are used to constant confrontations one these types of documentaries would have been let down.

As the bald one isn’t as foul mouthed or intense as his contemporaries there were few fireworks in the first 60 minutes, apart from his occasional discussions with the company owner. By the end a culture clash had been sparked between the Little Chef employees and Heston’s head chefs while he was away for the day that was quite exciting.

The James May of the Cooking World and a Swearing Scotsman to come

Parts two and three might raise the stakes a little and as a way of starting the Great British Food Fight season this was a good choice. The schedules also have back to basic chef turned slobbering food nazi Jamie Oliver and the James May of the cooking world Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall launching new campaigns on pork and chickens respectively.

Then there’s swearing Scotsman Gordon Ramsey who will no doubt be doing more of his monosyllabic instructional recipes (Mince. Basil. Pan. Chop. Cook. Eat. Now) and probably going for a record attempt for the most four letter tirades in one minute.