Thursday, 24 September 2009

Heston takes on NHS task

Heston Blumenthal, owner of the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, is apparently a Government collaborator. According to the website, he told delegates at the Cheltenham Science Festival in Gloucester that he is a year into a Government-backed project with the NHS and Reading University to improve hospital food.

Speaking this summer, the highly inventive chef said the project was looking at ways to rejuvenate the dining environment in hospital and improve the flavour of food in the mouth. FFS... where else would you want to improve the flavour of food?

Heston isn’t the first TV chef to try to reform NHS catering. The Better Hospital Food Programme (which was scrapped in 2006) was launched by the Department for Health in 2001 with Lloyd Grossman as its mascot.

Earlier this year, Heston’s restaurant suffered an outbreak of a vomiting and diarrhoea virus which closed the Fat Duck for three weeks. I’m not really sure the NHS needs something like that. After all, some hospitals are perfectly capable of doing that sort of thing on their own!


  1. "...the highly inventive chef said the project was looking at ways to rejuvenate the dining environment in hospital and improve the flavour of food in the mouth."

    If those are indeed his words then he is a total tosser. Some people might say a man who serves bacon and egg flavoured ice-cream is a jerk in any case, though I would not.

    But it is not chefs or academics, or more wretched Guvment projects that are needed, but a hospital Chief Exec who has the balls (or the lady's equivalent - I've led a sheltered life) to come and eat with the patients for a week.

    Even better spend a week as a patient in a hospital ward and experience the life first hand.

    The person you need for the job is Taiichi Ohno, founder of the Toyata Way. (OK, he's been long dead, but then so has Keith Floyd.)

    And if anyone says "Oh you mean 'lean' do you?' I'll shoot them. No, lean is a bastardised, westernised parody of the Toyota Way, which is all about value demand and flow starting at the end point with the consumer not the producer.

    Taiichi did just what I'm recommending for a half-decent Chief Exec - he went and spent hours and hours in factories watching intently what was happening, why things were going wrong and what was needed to prevent failure.

    You can tell seniority within Toyota - the higher up the rank you climb the closer is your office to the shop floor.

    'Being there' - that's where you start, not with unwieldy project plans, academic hypotheses or even fanciful pudding masters.

    A link to some of my other thoughts on managerial absence in the health service and its lethal consequences, for any who care take a look:

  2. Prepare yourself for snail porridge - but then I guess you must be used to that by now.

    Same old, same old...

  3. Hey you are famous! i found your blog in a mexican newspaper and i made a post about you in my blog. In spanish of course. I find your blog a very creative way to improve the health sistem. I hope you make it!
    here's the link to the newspaper
    and my post
    I hope your hospital find a new caterer, but one who wouldn't make you sicker!

  4. I'm not sure I'd trust a man who looks like one of those aliens from the infamous "Take Me To Your Dealer" student posters to cook me grub, whether he's won a bazillion Michelin stars or not. And that he tries to fob us off with snail porridge and turd ice cream doesn't help sell his culinary skills to me one iota. It's like the emperor's new clothes, if you ask me.

  5. It takes the man five hours to make abut of mashed potato, how the fuck is he going to cater for hundreds of thousands of NHS patients. With those sort of quantities, the NHS is going to buy forward snails for the next ten years.

  6. Reminds me of William Hurt's movie "The Doctor" He was a high flying specialist who got sick and had to be treated like every other patient.A lot of lessons learnt in that one.
    Yes the best way to fix it is at grass roots level.Get down there and check it all out and not by announcing you are coming either.Just go anonymously and suss it all out.

  7. Ya, know millions of people manage to cook and serve food everyday that does not taste and/or look like petrified pablum. And some of these people even cook for a lot of people at one time. Some only cook for their own. But the basic idea remains the same. It sure as hell ought not take a year to figure out how to do this for NHS.

    And I for one would love to know the company (I believe you said it was a U.S. firm) that serves up this sauteed pond scum. Just so I could take a look see about what other contracts they might have.


  8. I'm sure Google could help you track down a US caterer that works in the field of prison and hospital catering. You probably won't have to go too far into the alphabet to find the name... mark my words!

  9. Morning TM.
    I am horrified that this so called "chef" is going to get anywhere near NHS food.
    Apparently he wants to make it a little bit more adventurous or something equally as stupid.
    With the exception of your good self, I am afraid to say that most of the service users are over 65 and what they want is good wholesome well cooked food.
    I am sure that you would agree , in principle there is nothing wrong with the menu of the food - I mean shepherds pie, sausages, stews, roast dinners, fish dishes etc all look good on paper.It is in the production of said dishes where it all goes wrong.
    Lloyd Grossman proved to be an unmitigated disaster when he was involved with the food with most patients rejecting his more far flung ideas. I am sure this idiot will be no better.
    The last thing you want, when ill. is food that has been messed around with and contains ingredients that you are unsure what they are ( OMG the grammar, excuse me!).

  10. I couldn't agree more. We don't need celebrity chefs... just good wholsome ingredients properly cooked and promptly served at a proper temperature. Is that so much to ask. If I were an NHS chef I'd be crawling up the wall having spent time at catering college only to heat up factory produced slop.

  11. To me, food should only be 'proper'! All this cook/chill/reheat nonsense is not!
    Celebrity chefs are all well and good in their place. Jaimie did wonders for bringing the plight of school dinners to the attention of the public BUT fancy food is not what is needed.

    What people need is good, well cooked, nutritious meals! Whether they be school kids, inmates at her Majesty's pleasure, or patients in a hospital!

    I used to get really annoyed when I would go to a pub or restaurant and have a meal only to discover that it was from the same supplier as the hospital I worked in! Not funny! It tasted and was served just as badly in both venues.

    I think I can guess the supplier of your hospital is probably the same one in which case that eplains the cr*p served to you instead of food. When are the people in charge going to understand that we just want proper food! Not fancy, faffy meals but food that looks and tastes like it should!

  12. I do not know how this would work in England, but if a person in a local hospital here in Florida exposed such ghastly meals. I would suggest that a contest be held amongst the local high school, vocational and college culinary classes to see which class could come up with decent meals. Being sure to have different categories such as meals for Diabetics.

    I suppose the actual daily cooking of the food would have to be done by the hospital kitchen workers but the students could participate in that and earn credits towards graduation.

    And any contestant that forgot the K.I.S.S. principle would get a boot on the backside.