Born in a small town in Dorsett, England, Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts began his culinary career like many others: working for a local restaurant at 13 years old. Ashley joined Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in 1999, moving up the ranks to sous chef in 2001, and becoming head chef two years after that. Today, he is considered Heston Blumenthal’s protégé, his core collaborator, and the driving force behind both Dinners by Heston at Melbourne’s Crown Casino and the two Michelin-starred Dinner By Heston located at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
The menu at Dinner By Heston is the result of years of research exploring Britain’s culinary past, and hours spent consulting with food historians and delving into the archives at the British Library. The signature dish – Meat Fruit (featured on the front cover of this edition) is said be the most photographed dish on the planet. It comprises an orb of chicken liver parfait designed to resemble a freshly picked mandarin, based on a recipe from around 1500 AD.
When it came to fitting out the most anticipated kitchen in Melbourne, Ashley settled only for the best for Dinner By Heston. When asked what equipment was the most relied on, Ashley was quick to respond.
“It would have to be the RATIONAL ovens and the charcoal oven, they are both very reliable and never let us down,” said Ashley.
The rest of the kitchen is surprisingly restrained, with the team relying on some basic commercial grills and commercial cooktops, holding drawers and commercial vacuum sealers in addition to their combi ovens and charcoal ovens.
“Our kitchen is set up in quite a basic way,” Ashley explains. “In addition to the ovens we have planchers (flat top grill) and induction cooktops. We have Alto-Shaam draws that we use for holding and sometimes also use them to finish a cook. For instance, we will roast some fish, and then it’ll go into the Alto-Shaam at 50 degrees and allow it to just slowly come through. We use it for holding bits and bobs, keeping things warm, or an element that just needs to go in there to rest for a while. We rest all our meat in there from the meat section.”
“We use a cryvac machine (PureVac) for compression and getting flavour into things, it helps us work in a nice efficient way. We use it to store things; it definitely cuts down on boxes we have around.”