Impossible Mission The Heston Way


What must the French think. For the past few years the best chefs in the world herald from beyond L’Hexagone.

Heston’s Mission Impossible follows one such cooking-star as he tries to transform truly awful and chronically ingrained eating experiences. His first foray was into an institution that deserves all the derision it receives; the NHS.

Our hero specifically visited the country’s largest children’s hospital in Liverpool. Given the skills of any editor in this kind of show, all parties can be cut both ways, but in this case, a clear baddie emerged in the form of the Catering Manager. How could he really believe that 90% of food was prepared from scratch when all Heston encountered was deep fried rubbish?

Regardless, the point was well made that the kids’ food was awful when it should be of the highest priority.

Heston didn’t only face barriers from the Catering Manager. The chefs themselves were sceptical and the overall Management feared cost overruns and lacking patient acceptance.

Apathy, doubt, apprehension, terror. These sound like the typical emotions you see prospect-side during a hectic solution sell involving change. Can we learn from Heston’s efforts to overcome them? Not only preventing behaviour aimed at holing you below the waterline behind your back, but also at gaining long-term traction from buy-in with momentum.

Re-engage with customers

His first idea was to re-inject fun and wonder into the chefs. It initially floundered spectacularly. He tried to replicate the experience of one of his wacky restaurant dishes. His sound of the sea includes having seaside sounds played whilst diners appear to eat off a reconstructed rockpool. The cooks thought he was a nutter, and one of them even spat out the seafood. Not a good start.

So he took his portable speakers out on to the wards. He changed his approach. He simply played the track and asked each child what images of food it evoked. They all gushed with fond food memories. Their faces lit up and the smiles spread to the cooks. They realised the impact their cooking could have on the sad youngsters’ recovery.

Idea generation

Heston lept on the renewed enthusiasm. Rather than be stifled by the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” negativity, he asked “what if you didn’t have to serve a three-course meal for lunch?”. Ideas flowed. Interesting sandwiches cropped up as a cold meal option, leading to innovations such as the flying saucer. And still within the £4 a day per person restriction.

He continued with the theme of getting doubters involved in the creative process with a brilliant section showing how they all played with flavours in his home kitchen to conjure a healthy yet tasty green smoothie.

I was also intrigued that he went far off on a wow factor, seemingly to go for the horizon in the hope for a small step to start off towards it.

“Sense of occasion”

This was a resounding success. He introduced excitement around mealtime. He dressed up the delivery trolley with balloons, posters and personality. The theatre really “set the tone”.

Presenter passion

When it came to the final presentation, Heston elected to take a back seat. This clearly worried his team-mates. But as Heston said, “it’s good to be nervous, it shows you care“. The coal-face presenter passion really shone through with a naturalness, belief and sincerity.


By the end Heston pulled off some truly remarkable culinary magic. Seven dishes were progressed. No more waffles, beans, spaghetti and cold baked potatoes. His challenging Bet You Can’t Eat It menu included:

vomit soup  snot shake  stuffed eyeballs  worms in soil  caterpillar pizza

Chicken and sweetcorn broth, kiwi and apple smoothie, beef tomatoes stuffed with olive and cheese, jellied passion fruit strips and chocolate crumbs, meal worms filled with ketchup on proper pizza dough. And some great solution selling tips too.

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