Who needs perfection?

The Fat Duck would be thrilling, says Nicholas Clee - but the local tratt will be more fun

Hats off to Hugh Briss, an Amazon reviewer of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection. Briss actually tried, as the book had recommended, blowtorching a steak and pre-cooking it in the oven for 18 hours on low heat. Alas, he confesses: "This just did not work for me and the steak ended up far too black and chewy." He also got out his vacuum cleaner and a bag, and used them to aerate some chocolate for a Black Forest gateau. The machine is "hard to clean afterwards", Briss cautions. He is a better man than I.

Blumenthal introduces his BBC2 series (which the book accompanies) by saying that he wants us to try his techniques at home. So far, the only one I have tackled is poaching sausages before frying them. It worked fine - but no better than the slow-frying I normally practise. Maybe my water was hotter than the 65°C that Blumenthal specified. I do not have the appropriate thermometer; and even if I did have one, I'm not sure that I would have been able to maintain such a temperature.

I am not knocking Blumenthal. He is an engaging person with an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity. The food at his three-star restaurant, the Fat Duck, is by all accounts a wonderful advertisement for his extraordinary, painstaking techniques. However, his cooking techniques are better suited to his own kitchen and skills than to mine.

What I feel after watching his programme is, albeit to a heightened degree, what I feel when watching all celebrity chefs, or when reading their books or newspaper columns. "That wouldn't work if I tried it . . . That is too elaborate for me . . . I don't have one of those . . . I couldn't afford that . . . Come off it!" They belong to a world with different values from those of the home cook. We want our food to be delicious, of course; but a spirit of compromise, of relish for the rough and ready, informs what we do. Among the current crop of television chefs, only Nigella Lawson - despite the "domestic goddess" persona - conveys this attitude.

That notion, "perfection", is the problem. While it is what we might aim for, it is not necessarily what we most enjoy. I have been lucky enough to eat at several three-star restaurants. I should be thrilled to visit the Fat Duck. But, given a choice of any restaurant to dine at this evening, I would not pick one of those places. I would have a better time at my local tratt and pizzeria, which the Michelin inspectors need not add to their itineraries.

For lunch, I often make myself a soup with an onion, some garlic and spices, a tin of cannellini beans, and an eye-watering quantity of harissa. A food critic would almost certainly pronounce this mélange disgusting. It is one of my favourite things.

I shall not be needing to clean the chocolate from the nozzle of my vacuum cleaner any time soon.

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