How Fat Can The Fat Duck Be?

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By the end of this article, I’m sure, you’d answer: ‘It can be fatter than the fattest!’

While I was just browsing for some juicy news about small businesses the other day, I was attracted to a number of entries about a restaurant being opened in Melbourne, Australia. I wondered why there was so much noise about a chain of restaurants opening another one in Australia, and I was forced to investigate, and the finding made me gape in awe.

A British restaurant will be opened in Australia only for six months. (You need to try to see if Aussies like English food, you see.) But the interesting twist here is that the diners to this restaurant will be chosen by electronic ballot!

We know we elect our political leaders by secret ballot; we know we select something or some one lucky by drawing lots; we know the best or the luckiest customer at a shopping mall or at a supermarket is chosen in a lottery system and some people get lucky in lucky dips, but booking a diner for a table at a restaurant by ballot is something entirely different.

And the more stunning piece of information is that there are thousands “from all over the world” trying to get their names registered online to be on the ballot months in advance for a meal at an eatery that is going to be opened in the month of February, 2015!

You wouldn’t find this online melee all that surprising if you knew ‘The Fat Duck’.

The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray

The Origins of the Duck

A small restaurant was opened in an old pub in Bray, a small village in Berkshire county south of England, near London, in 1995 by a young ‘scientific’ chef named Heston Mac Blumenthal, OBE, with a staff of only two — himself and another employee, serving a menu of ‘snail porridge’ and bacon ice-cream along with other items. Some critic fondly called this popular snail porridge “infamous”, which actually brought all the fame to the restaurant.

The logo says it all

The Fat Duck’s logo shows what you’re going to get at the restaurant, with the beak of the duck as a spoon, a duck’s feather as a knife and the duck’s foot as a fork… three placed side by side. There have been some critiques about this logo that are not so impressive. A critic made the remark that the logo could be made simpler and more attractive. I personally think this is one of the best restaurant logos I have seen so far in the UK.

the fat duck logo design is quite simple and elegant

Creating the right kind of logo design for your restaurant can have a significant or even a critical impact on the success of your business. A logo design communicates messages to the customers even before they experience the food. Many judgements are made about a restaurant just from the logo. A robust brand strategy should include the logo design as part of the overall visual story of the restaurant and not in isolation.

Heston Blumenthol with his chemistry set!

The Thin Duck grew Fat

As the people started eating more and more at the Duck, The Duck grew fatter and fatter. Over the years, The Duck obtained two more eateries in Bray: ‘The Hinds Head’ (2004) and ‘The Crown’ (2010). It has another one ‘Dinner By Heston Blumenthal’ at the Mandarin Oriental Park, London (2011). In addition, it opened ‘The Perfectionists’ Cafe’ in London Heathrow Terminal 2 (2014).

Over the years, with the hard work and business acumen of Heston Blumenthol, the chef,The Duck has grown several colorful crest feathers:

The Duck got its first Michelin Star, a restaurant rating given to the best restaurants around the world by Michelin Tire Company, in 1999; won the second Michelin in 2001 and the third in 2004, and credited as the fastest restaurant that has gone from one to three stars in the UK.

  • In 2001 The Duck was given the ‘Restaurant of the Year’ by the Automobile Association.
  • In 2005 The Duck got the Harpers and Moet ‘Best Restaurant of the Year outside London’ award.
  • It was the only restaurant to be given 10 out of 10 score in the Good Food Guide.
  • In 2010, The Duck was named the Best UK Restaurant in the Quintessentially Awards.
  • The Fat Duck was on the list of The world’s 50 Best Restaurants for nine consecutive years.

Heston, the culinary entrepreneur, proudly declares that The Fat Duck receives 30,000 calls of enquiry a day and that the restaurant takes reservations up to 2 months in advance.

heston blumenthal at the curry awards

The Furthest Migration Of The Duck

And the latest addition is going to be The Fat Duck in Melbourne, Australia. As the mother Duck in Bray is in a 16th century building, Heston decided to do it up a little and add a new kitchen, and as a result, The Duck has to be closed to public from February 3, 2015 to August 15, 2015. Being an energetic entrepreneur, Heston doesn’t want to waste his time and energy sitting idle like a lame duck. He thought of a plan to fly The Duck over the oceans and chose Melbourne, Australia as the landing site for his Duck.

He surprised and disappointed the New Yorkers by not choosing New York for his out of UK restaurant. The strong reason behind his decision to not opt for New York, according to a news report, is some friend’s advice about the stiff staff recruitment regulations in New York. Whatever be the reason, The Fat Duck has decided to take a six-month vacation in Australia.

“This is probably the furthest migration a duck of any kind, let alone a big fat duck has made,” Heston Blumenthal described his future venture in Melbourne in a news interview.

Indeed it is. It’s not only the furthest but also the most prestigious overseas flight of 17,000 Km his ‘duck’ is taking, and to make it as supersonic as possible, he has made the best use of his brand imagery. And the result is the great rush for bookings online. Those Aussies who know The Duck certainly want to be the first to have their presence at the opening, not just to relish the food but to cherish the moment.

As he has plans to bring The Duck back to its original roosting place, Bray in UK, and establish his ‘Dinner By Heston Blumenthal’ there in Melbourne permanently, Heston must see to that the first glimpse the Aussies have of The Fat Duck must be the best.

the-fat-duck-2

the-fat-duck-3

The Ugly Ducklings in the Brood

Though Heston, the 47 year old owner cum chef, uses his understanding of molecular science, known for his molecular gastronomy and his knowledge of customer psychology in providing his guests with the finest gourmet cuisines and even has a laboratory to experiment his recipes scientifically, there have been some ups and downs in running The Fat Duck.

In 1995, the same year he started the business, Blumenthal almost went bankrupt. To keep the duck cackling, he had to sell his house, car and several other things. Fortunately, along with his wife’s extreme cooperation, the wind of luck blew in his favor and he survived.

Though there have been several wonderful reviews about The Fat Duck, in 2005, Wolfram Siebeck, a German food critic, paid a visit to the eatery and grumbled that the service was slow and concluded that the dish ‘mustard ice-cream in a red cabbage gazpacho soup’ was a “fart of nothingness.”

In 2009, The Duck had to brace for the worst storm in its life. In the same year it won its first Michelin Award, the restaurant had to be closed for a while because of the ‘vomiting bug’ (norovirus) that affected about 500 of his guests and staff.

In August, 2011, Heston Blumenthol left, Zanna, his wife of 20 years who sacrificed most of her life for the sake of the multi-million pound Duck, and rumor had it that he dated with Suzanne Pirret, an American cookery book writer.

In November, 2012, two of his best chefs who were on a promotional tour of The Duck in Hong Kong were killed in a motor accident.

In February, 2014, once again the restaurant faced charges of food poisoning when the same bug struck again and this time 24 diners and 21 members of staff were taken ill at ‘Dinner’, Hyde Park. Though the Food Protection Agency did not bring charges, the damage to The Fat Duck popularity seemed irreparable.

In 2014, The Fat Duck in Bray, the restaurant that stayed comfortably on the list of the top five restaurants in the world for over a decade dropped 20 places and was ranked at 33rd place.

So, let’s hope that the overseas venture in Melbourne will be a great success for our Duck and it flies back home safer and fatter!

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