Why I hate Heston: Sue Nelson takes on the culinary wizard

20 September 2016  •  Author(s): New Food

Sue Nelson hates Heston Blumenthal. Well, she doesn’t really hate him – he’s probably a very nice man – but she despises his gastronomic gadgetry and gizmos, because they’re killing the national passion that is great cookery. 

That will be Sue’s message when she appears as a guest speaker next week at the Takeaway and Restaurant Innovation Expo 2016 at London’s Excel on September 27 to 28.


As leader of Tech London Advocates’ Food Tech Group, presenter of The FoodTalk Show and CEO of tax relief consultants Breakthrough Funding, who specialise in R&D tax credits for innovation, Sue Nelson is no stranger to new ideas. However, there’s new and there’s numpty. Although his restaurant food is undeniably spectacular and certainly has a place in the culinary landscape, Sue believes that Heston’s TV work as a celebrity chef falls firmly into the latter category.

“Every diner should expect a restaurant meal to be excellent, but it doesn’t need to have been beamed down from the Starship Enterprise.” 

“This isn’t just a minor quibble about over-complicated food – Heston is really hindering the confidence of great home cooks in this country,” Sue said. 

“Television cooking seems to have evolved into a voyeuristic chemistry lesson, or learning to win at gastronomic Jenga. 

“Molecular gastronomy is dry, faddish, sterile, macho and boring. Traditional domestic cooking is passionate, personal, witty, unique and easy to eat. It has character and style. Yet thanks to the likes of Heston, home cooks think they have to own a sous-vide machine and a stash of liquid nitrogen to turn out a great dish. His recipe for Black Forest gateau had 37 ingredients and took four days and an array of lab equipment to make – how are we supposed to knock that up after work?”

“Television cooking seems to have evolved into a voyeuristic chemistry lesson, or learning to win at gastronomic Jenga.”

Heston’s exploits are also changing public expectations of restaurant food, Sue believes, in ways that are not always welcome or reasonable.

“Every diner should expect a restaurant meal to be excellent, but it doesn’t need to have been beamed down from the Starship Enterprise,” she said.

“Great, honest food that is true to the chef’s roots and influences is what we really want, but Heston’s approach suggests that simple, passionately produced food is somehow underwhelming. Families have arrived at lovingly cooked meals generation after generation, long before the macho celebrity chef arrived.”


About Sue Nelson B.A. (Hons). M.B.A, F.I.o.D.

Sue is Founder and CEO of Breakthrough Funding, which specialises in getting funding for innovative SMEs. She holds an MBA, is a Tech London Advocate and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors.

She has held senior design, brand and IT communications roles for international companies and PLCs. She has been a Non-Executive member of the Risk Committee of a government department and advised ministers and presented at Select Committees. Formerly CEO of NW Fine Foods, Sue is a published food writer who leads the Tech London Advocates’ Food Tech Group and co-presents The FoodTalk Show. 

2 responses to “Why I hate Heston: Sue Nelson takes on the culinary wizard”

  1. Dnarb says:

    I find Sue Nelson’s views very limiting. It is like saying you hate Elon Musk, because not everyone can go to Mars. Or that you hate a famous painter, because you cannot paint like that at home. I think that molecular gastronomy has advanced our understanding of flavor chemistry and texture and is pushing the possibilities of food and culinary experience, and it serves as an inspiration for anyone who is interested food. It increased my awareness of food, but it does not mean I expect this at every restaurant. I love good traditional food as much as molecular cuisine. If I go to a restaurant, I do my homework and I know what to expect (this is why we have the Internet). Molecular cuisine is everything BUT boring and faddish. It is exciting and challenging as it pushes the boundaries of food culture, and it has inspired many people to cook and experiment for themselves.

    • AC says:

      Nice article and interesting comment. However, I suggest that Dnarb’s analogy to a tech genius or a master painter misses Sue Nelson’s point completely. Food is a fundamental part of a healthy life style to which people should relate at a personal level. The ability, the skills and the interest in cooking good, varied and nutritious food shouldn’t be something that the average John Smith dreams about while reading the technology highlight section of New Scientist, but it should be part of everyday life.
      Advancements in food science and technology are obviously fundamental in the quest to feeding the soon-to-be nine billion people that will populate earth, but I suggest that instead of tricking people into believing that everyone could cook like Heston, efforts should focus on driving sustainable investments into research and entrepreneurship to address the numerous issues that we currently have in the food value chain and in our people’s diet.

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