Belfast Telegraph

Friday 27 May 2016

Heston Blumenthal entertains Tim Peake to earthly dinner party

Published 12/03/2016

Heston Blumenthal made meals for astronaut Tim Peake
Heston Blumenthal made meals for astronaut Tim Peake

Heston Blumenthal described his nerves as he hosted a dinner party from earth for Major Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The chef has spent two years devising seven dishes for Peake to take with him as part of his strictly-controlled "bonus food" to the ISS which would remind him of home, with his trials and triumphs - from blackened bacon sandwiches to rejected recipes - captured for new TV show Heston's Dinner In Space.

Blumenthal became visibly emotional when he joined Peake, somewhere above Africa, via a live link from the European Space Agency's mission control in Munich and watched the astronaut try his beef and black truffle stew for the first time.

He said: "I didn't expect it to be emotional. I was nervous because it was two years of work and because although Tim tasted the dishes and loved them on earth, he didn't know, I didn't know, how he would respond to them up in the space station.

"Storage space is really at a premium. If one of the meals we did he didn't like, that's much much worse to him not liking it down here, to it tasting differently.

"The first time I saw that clip, I got a little bit of a tightening (of my chest) and I'm not in space, I'm not away from my family."

Blumenthal admitted he "felt very under-dressed" for their dinner, with Peake donning a tuxedo-style T-shirt for the successful tasting.

Peake set the challenge to create nostalgic meals that would help him feel connected to his family during the six-month mission aboard the ISS, and lead the way in research into the future of space food.

Dishes included Alaskan salmon to evoke memories of Peake's army training in the US and a sausage sizzle to remind him of family camping trips with his wife and two sons.

The difficulties of cooking in space - and preserving food for up to two years - came as a "bit of a shock" for Blumenthal as he was forced to abandon pouches for canning, work around rules on crumbs and sauce viscosity and tackle the astronaut's dampened taste buds.

He admitted to being a little peeved that Peake had eaten one of the bacon sandwiches as his first meal aboard.

"The idea was to eat it later on in the trip. I like to think it's because he was too excited," he said.

The cost of his two year experiment was "reassuringly expensive", but worth it because Peake has already "asked for a lot more".

With agencies envisioning travel to Mars and a boom in space tourism, there is more reason than ever for Blumenthal to throw himself into research.

"One day there'll be a restaurant on the moon," he said.

Will it be Blumenthal's?

"I've got to think of a menu first."

He admitted he "shot up and head-butted the ceiling" during filming in zero-gravity for the show, so Peake need not fear for his job just yet.

But Blumenthal enjoyed the gravity-free experience. "It felt, bizarrely, not strange," he said.

:: Heston's Dinner In Space airs on Sunday March 20 on Channel 4 at 6pm.

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