food as theatre - the sound of the sea?

As some of you may know, I have been watching MasterChef (Australia).  I'm a big fan. I think it goes a long way to educating the public to a 'cooking from scratch' philosophy, encouraging sourcing good produce, and I've heard stories of people expanding their palettes and minds.  People eat too much crappity crap these days. 
In days gone by, I used to do night fill for a supermarket, and baulked at stocking the 'nutritous snacks' isle with sugar, and wheat laden bars.
I'm not crazy about the amount of butter/duck fat that is often used in Masterchef, but there is still a greater purpose in all of it.  You can get people, who are not slightly interested in cooking, to become enthused about cooking for their family.  Brilliant.  My son is keen to try some new things, that he may not have before.  (he's also a fan!)
Last night I was completely mesmerized, and horrified, and again entertained, when Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck (a three Michelin star restaurant), presented 4 of his signatures dishes for the contestants to make.    This guy is clearly brilliant...part scientist / part magician, his chosen medium is food.

I want to open up a discussion. Do you think that chefs are taking things a bit too far?

I mean, I understand the concept of going to a restaurant, and enjoying good food with good company.  It's one of the niceties of life.

But this truly extraordinary dish called 'Sound of the Sea', presented in Heston's restaurant with a giant conch shell, cleverly hiding an IPod, that enables you to enjoy seaside sounds, whilst eating the dish.
Is that crazy?  It's clever I know.  Is this too much?  Are we becoming so affluent, that we seek increasingly deeper experiences of sensuality.
It partly fascinates me, partly disgusts me.  Am I ranting and raving over nothing?  This dish took Heston four years to design.  He has seen people in his restaurant cry whilst enjoying it, savouring it.
When so many people in the world don't even have clean water to drink, is this a form of gluttony for those that can afford the price asked for a dish such as this?  If I had enough money to fly over to England, and dine at the Fat Duck, would I?   A three course menu at the Fat Duck is 150 pounds.  In Australian dollars that equals $252.  Wow.   That's a lot of moola any way you look at it.  For one meal.

Sound of the Sea, on the menu of the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant, features seafood and edible seaweed on a bed of sand-like tapioca - all washed down with the sound of breaking waves

These quotes taken from BBC news:
'Chef Heston Blumenthal, famous for his scientific approach to food, said the recording of breaking waves heightened the flavour of dish "Sound of the Sea".

"We ate an oyster while listening to the sea and it tasted stronger and saltier", Mr Blumenthal said.
Mr Blumenthal told Square Meal magazine that the tests carried out with Charles Spence at Oxford University "revealed that sound can really enhance the sense of taste".

George Calombaris (actually I'm a big fan of George!) from Masterchef and owner of the Press Club in Melbourne, has this amazing dessert on his menu called 'Aphrodite', that has white chocolate mousse, cherries, roses, soil, scent for only $18.90. 
It comes with a beautiful tray of 'soil' (served separately of course) that the waiter presumably 'tips' scent of rose over, or something like, thus releasing perfume and earthiness that matches the flavour of the dessert.
Again, engages the senses. 


There must be countless other chefs that procure such food theatre.
Is it all relative?
Should I feel guilty about dining out at all, when others can't?
What do you think about all this food theatre business?
Is it acceptable?  Is it over the top?  Is it all relative to one's financial/social position?


  1. agree!!
    watched this last night and thought to myself about the theatrics behind such a dish and I would never even think about going to try something as irrelevant to my life.
    yes it's over the top and no I am not a wanna be foodie who would absolutely HAVE to try this. sometimes I wonder if these wannabe chefs on Masterchef rally know what it's like to work in a commercial kitchen. not all glitz & glamour I can tell you.
    I'm off now Luisa to perfect a signature dish...I'll let you know what it is in 3 or 4 years.. :)

  2. I hadn't heard of all these theatrics and it does sound kind of nuts! I know that the French just go for affordable food made from good ingredients - it's true that some of the 'fancy' cooking ideas came from them, but they seem to know when to stop - it's simply 'normal' to eat good food at a good price. Who needs more?

  3. I think it is all rather wankie actually. When Jamie Oliver was on the show a night or two ago the very simple food he cooked looked amazing. I do think it tends to go completely overboard with everyone trying to outdo each other. Horses for courses....

  4. I'm with BOB & MABEL - "Sounds of the Sea" is a great big wank! I agree that it's clever, and engages the senses but you'd end up sitting in the restuarant, ignoring your dining companions because you're wearing earphones and listening to the sea. Anyone with a teenager in the house would be battling this problem every meal I would think!! Dining out to me is more about the company and good food is a bonus.

    I love Masterchef and it has certainly inspired me to do more cooking from scratch and I have really gained an appreciation for the food that I do eat when we go out (which is rarely with two pre-school children). But I also think a lot of the Masterchef stuff is extravagant - taking 2.5 hours to create one dessert?? I'd like them to challenge the contestants to cook a meal for a family of 6 with whatever you can find int he cupboard in 15 minutes!!

    I think we all need to appreciate that there is food you eat in fine restaurants, there is food you share with friends at a dinner party and there is food we eat everyday to survive - we need to find tha balance but always, consider where our food comes from and develop a love of good, wholesome food in ourselves and our kids! I think Jamie Oliver has got it right (and he's passionate about good food for the masses).

  5. I thought it was all a bit weird myself. Food should just be food, minus the electronic gadgets. There is the point of view that it is an art form though and i can kinda understand that. Personally, i would never pay huge amounts for a meal or anything for that matter. It is obscene with people in need all over this country and abroad.
    On another show last week re the Isle of Man, a millionaire was being interviewed sitting on his massive yacht. He was talking about buying a ferrari and laughed saying 'well what else am i going to do with the money?' Hard to believe isn't it.

  6. Have to admit that I find the 'fancy foods' like the sea dish too over the top for me. Prefer simpler foods myself.

    And the foam sauce! Bleurgh! Is is it just me, or do foaming sauces look like kitty furballs or dying slugs to others as well? ;)

  7. Interesting! It might be fun to participate, but, I think I would rather spend that much money on something, well, not so consumable! I like this comment from ange_moore: "I'd like them to challenge the contestants to cook a meal for a family of 6 with whatever you can find in the cupboard in 15 minutes!!" This challenge would benefit many people!

  8. Wow! I suppose there will always be people who have the money to pay for such things...How many meals would this buy for a kid in Africa?
    I was stunned when living in England. I worked at a rather posh Catholic boarding school in 1987. They tought children about charity by knitting pink sweater out of polyacrylic wool and sending them to Africa. Fundraisers consisted of raffles where cars and expensive rugs were donated. Tickets sold at 50 pence a piece. The cars went back to the people who donated them since they bought most of the raffle tickets to win their stuff back. The few hundred pounds raised went to poor kids in Africa. Meanwhile the rich kids were starved - purposefully not fed enough food - to teach them about the hardships in life. I guess one gets a tad crazy when attending such schools...Maybe some former students of the school I worked at are the patrons of the restaurant you are talking about?
    My husband and I cook some pretty darn good food and feel lucky to enjoy it to the sound of loud kids and good conversation with friends.

  9. i think it woyld be a fun show to watch, but i wouldn't want to eat that way.

  10. I have worked with heston, and the attention to detail that we prepare sound of the sea is amazing. each individual item which makes up the dish is of the highest quality, treated with the utmost care, and prepared perfectly. together, you get the most amazing sensation of 'the sea' when eating this. you should all try it and see for yourself if you ever get the chance!


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