Heston Blumenthal, the self-taught chef whose restaurant in Berkshire has been judged the best in the world, is starting an internet archive to record his food experiments.
The cook has two full-time staff extending the boundaries of culinary science in a kitchen laboratory, but until now their work has been filed away. The computer database will help Blumenthal analyse the results of his experiments and preserve them for posterity.
At first, only the chef and his staff will be able to access the archive with varying levels of security depending on the seniority of users. But one day the cook responsible for smoked bacon and egg ice-cream hopes to leave the archive to the nation. It could become a valuable source of information about food to scientists, chefs and the public - a sort of culinary encyclopedia.
"We are in the process of building our own web archive based on the Wikipedia system," explained Blumenthal, referring to the free internet encyclopedia. "All the research we do goes on this system, whether it's work from making bread dough to chocolate recipes to a talk I gave. All that information needs to be logged somewhere with photographs."
The Fat Duck, Blumenthal's restaurant in the village of Bray, has a reputation as one of the frontiers of British food on account of research into ingredients and the psychology of dining.
The 39-year-old's seemingly outlandish recipes often pair unusual flavours and forms such as salmon poached in liquorice. He and his staff are currently developing hot-and-cold chocolate - chocolate cold on the outside and warm inside - and bread dough with separate flavours.
Blumenthal hopes to record all the previous work done at the laboratory, which is equipped with such contraptions as a distiller, a vacuum machine and a centrifuge. "We would like to transfer all the information we have got on paper and on disk on to this as well," he said.
Blumenthal revealed his inspiration for the project was one of the world's other great culinary pioneers, Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Catalonia. He recalled: "[Ferran] was saying to me that... they were trying to log information, because you are involved in something that is changing the face of gastronomy."
Owing to his commitments running the Fat Duck and his other venture in Bray, the Hind's Head pub, Blumenthal can spend only a few hours in his laboratory, usually on Monday and Tuesday mornings. The archive will allow him to log on and check progress in his kitchen at the end of the day, a facility which may become more important as his profile rises.
This summer the BBC is to broadcast Blumenthal's first prime-time television series, Perfection, a search for the perfect way to cook eight ordinary dishes.
Asked if he intended to leave the collection to the nation, perhaps to an institution such as the British Library, he said: "Yes. I would say in some shape or form when we have got enough information on there and if anybody thought that would have an effect, then yes."
The Fat Duck - which has only 14 covers - received its best restaurant in the world accolade from Restaurant magazine last year.Reuse content