In this month’s Good Food, the editors of the Australian food magazine somehow gathered Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Ben Shewry, Brett Graham, Heston Blumenthal, and Neil Perry in the same room for a long-ranging interview. While the entire thing’s worth a read for the chefs’ perspectives on success and growth, mentoring, reviews, and social media, this statement by Blumenthal jumped out:
”I would say that today service is more important than the food,” says Blumenthal.
”If front-of-house is arrogant and the customer gets that bitter taste, it doesn’t matter what you put in the food, it’s bitter.
”The kitchen might f— up, but if the service is human, then, my God, people will forgive you.”
”It’s called hospitality,” chips in Perry, ”hospitality and generosity – and timing. Great waiters know when to get in, when to get out and when not to approach.”
”One of the worst signs of service is to be asked, ‘How was that?”’ says Blumenthal. ”It’s so wrong. It’s inviting you to lie. I hate that.”
And though it was a completely different anecdote, he probably applied this philosophy of Being A Decent Human Being and Not A Waitstaff Robot to the moment he almost turned Queen Elizabeth II into Han Solo:
”I met Queen Elizabeth once when I received my OBE,” he name-drops disarmingly.
”Then I was making ice-cream with liquid nitrogen for her at an exhibition of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Some nitrogen splashed over the bowl and she jumped back and said, ‘Gosh’. There was a big photo of her jumping back and everyone told me I would lose my OBE.” He didn’t. In fact, he ended up being asked by Prince Phillip to cater for the household’s Christmas party.
Yes, the entire conversation is full of gems like that one.
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