UK mentoring come fly with me

What links eccentric genius Heston Blumenthal and the 2012 London Olympics? Well, you’d be forgiven for not really getting the connection, but the answer is strangely mentoring. The chef has been asked by British Airways to oversee its Olympic-themed menu which will be sampled by over 3 million passengers during the course of the summer games. Blumenthal‘s task has been to devise a menu that represents the very best of British as part of its Great Britons programme. Part of the chef’s role was to select an upcoming star chef and offer his mentoring services. Blumenthal chose the hugely talented chef Simon Hulstone and together they have gone on to create what promises to be a very special menu indeed, with dishes that celebrate our rich history whilst showcase young British talent at its best.

Blumenthal is probably Britain’s best known, self-taught chef, noted for his unusual take on culinary classics, and a possible over-reliance on the use of liquid nitrogen. What makes the star chef all-the- more alluring is that he did not come into the industry in the usual manner. He didn’t attend catering college: instead he developed his passion for food and honed his skills in his parent’s kitchen. Granted some of his recipes might initially appear to be unusual, even bizarre, to the uninitiated, but the owner of the celebrated Fat Duck restaurant is obviously doing something right, as he’s already been awarded the coveted 3 star rating by Michelin: an award only achieved by the very best craftsmen usually towards the end of the careers. Blumenthal is naturally an inspired choice as a mentor, because of his own unorthodox experience.

Hulstone, though, is no novice when it comes to culinary competition. Hulstone, head chef at The Elephant in Torbay, is an award winning chef with a talent for using local, seasonal produce to create memorable flavours. Since the age of 16, he’s competed in and won many cookery competitions around the world. Hulstone has represented his country on more than 20 occasions, most recently in the world’s most prestigious culinary contest, the Bocuse d’Or. Among some of his other accolades are the Craft Guild of Chefs Chef of the Year 2008, the Roux Scholarship in 2003, Captaincy of the English and British Culinary teams and New Zealand Young Chef of the Year. Hulstone has worked with his father, Roger, and some of Britain’s top chefs, all of whom have played an important part in his career and achievements. It is because of the encouragement of these chef mentors that Hulstone was able to have the confidence to enter the competitions, and go on to develop a passion for great ingredients, and a finesse for taste and presentation which continues to win praise from critics and brought him his new mentor’s attention.

Blumenthal found the experience of mentoring enjoyable and worthwhile. Moreover, he also found surprisingly that he too learned from the experience. Mentee Hulstone on the other hand always knew that he would only gain from the mentoring programme, as his previous experiences had shown him that learning from his peers was both incentivising and inspiring. The proof of the pudding of this mentoring relationship will undoubtedly lie in the menu the two chefs have designed. Taking its cue from 1948 themes and foods, the menu pays homage to popular foods of the time like lemon curd, but given a contemporary twist in the form of a cheesecake with a raspberry and basil compote. The Olympic-themed menu will include highlights like potted braised beef with a potato and horseradish topping, served with hispi cabbage, baby carrots, roasted shallots and a rich jus, and a fish pie using sustainable hake, dressed with parmesan pomme purée and a warm tartare sauce. Sadly, most of us won’t get to sample this menu as these special dishes will only be served on long haul flights.

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