Heston’s 80s Feast Review: Blooming Hell Heston
HESTON’S 80s FEAST: Tuesday 11th May, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME
Heston Blumenthal – ‘culinary alchemist’ and chef célèbre – appears to be reaching the final stage of his transformation into a cross-hybrid of Harry Hill and Chris Evans just in time for this latest instalment in his new series Heston’s Feasts. This week’s penultimate episode focuses on the extravagances and tastes of the 1980s, that decade we’d all rather forget – unless you were a champagne chugging yuppie in which case you probably can’t remember it anyway.
Citing the 1980s as the era that introduced him to gadgets in the kitchen ranging from the sandwich toaster to the advent of the microwave, Blumenthal tries to recreate the excesses of the 1980s with a credit crunch twist. So – one of the most vacuous and lamentable decades in living memory combined with the depressing reality of today. Add to that a string of B-list celebrities – more than half of which I couldn’t identify until the end credits sequence – and you have one rancid recipe of a cookery show.
Having left the BBC in 2008 to join Channel 4, Heston’s format, in accordance with the general sway of the broadcaster, has become increasingly more dependent on the presence of celebrities to ooh and ah in orgasmic delight at whatever dish he throws at them. A problem that dogs many culinary shows is the inevitable audience disengagement when it comes to watching other people eating. You instantly experience a feeling of sensory deprivation and simply have to believe that what they are consuming merits their reactions which amalgamate into the same single judgement anyway.
Particularly surprising in this episode is an early sequence where he turns regular Blue Nun – via the employment of the retro-chic Soda Stream – into recession proof champagne. He proceeds to serve the drink – supposedly judged by more than half of those canvassed on the streets to be better than ‘actual’ champagne – in large brick style mobile phones, the antennas acting as straws. The presentation, whilst perhaps unique, looks cheap and garish but still elicits squeals of ecstatic joy from his dinner guests who seem unconcerned by the aesthetic. The same hindrance applies to his toasted sandwiches. One of the only ways the audience can begin to imagine how palatable something is on screen is through its presentation which throughout this programme is sacrificed for novelty and restricted by its obligation to the 1980s theme.
John Lennon – presumably before being ensnared by Yoko – once said that the avant-garde was French for bullsh*t. Culinary alchemist is possibly the synonym for a ‘ponce-in-a-kitchen’. However, the show will still be worth the watch if you’ve enjoyed previous Blumenthal efforts.