A feature for Comment is Free
There is much to make the gorge rise and the tears well in the “£250,000 kitchen”, a new masterclass in mega-crass designed by Electrolux and promoted by the grumpy firebrand chef Tom Aikens. (Literally a firebrand: he allegedly once held a burning-hot palette knife against the bare skin of an underling.) Consider the insanity of dropping two grand on a food mixer, when many three-Michelin-starred restaurants make do with ones costing half that. Note the jelly-brained insanity of the £6,200 vacuum packer. Behold the embarrassing machismo of it all, the nerdy obsession with kit, the dials, bleeps and touchscreens, the sweaty fingerprints on the chrome.
Heston Blumenthal has a lot to answer for. Perhaps, had he never gone in search of perfection, nobody would have designed a domestic oven whose temperature can be controlled to the nearest 10th of a degree. The daftness inherent in this is obvious. Room temperatures and ingredients vary far more than the temperature of an oven. So if you’re making, say, a soufflé, your main variables are the size of your eggs and the temperature of the room or fridge you’ve kept them in. A few grams’ or a couple of degrees’ difference and your own search for perfection is thwarted.
In any case, Blumenthal is sort of a genius, and equipment like this wouldn’t be wasted on him. I may be wrong, but I reckon the kind of person who can spend on their kitchen what other people spend on their house is unlikely to do much cooking themselves. I’d imagine that the majority of people who buy this stuff will have a private chef who’d be able to produce good food from far more ordinary kit. And this reinforces one of the truisms of many high-end things: they’re wasted on the people who can afford them.