MasterChef favourite Heston Blumenthal is a kid at heart
AS MASTERCHEF fans know, Heston Blumenthal sees the world in a different way.
The acclaimed British chef - best known for pushing the boundaries of food with dishes like egg and bacon ice cream, snail porridge and lickable wallpaper - is the Willy Wonka of his generation.
But, as he reveals to the Guide, Heston sees things differently.
"I have synaesthesia, where parts of the brain have stronger connections with each other," he says.
"So I'm not very good at remembering numbers... but I see letters as colours. T is blue, A is red, L is yellow; there's no rhyme or reason to it."
That unconventional perspective allows Heston to think outside the box, which is exactly what he expects of this year's MasterChef contestants.
The Fat Duck founder returns for his annual week as a guest chef on the reality cooking show, setting weird, wacky and wonderful challenges.
This year, Heston week is designed around the four elements of earth, water, air and fire.
Each shoot location will correspond to that day's theme, such as the Murray River providing the backdrop for water and the Murray salt pans for air.
"Some of the settings were just beautiful," Heston says. "The salt flats looked like a scene out of Mad Max.
"There was one challenge where one of the contestants put a dish together and Matt (Preston) and I just sat looking at the river and it got to the point where I said 'This transcends food; This is what food is all about - to create an emotional response'."
Having appeared on nearly every season of MasterChef, Heston has watched the show and its contestants evolve and improve.
"Every year I say the quality's gone up and up," he says. "They've been asked to create a dish about something much more abstract than ever before and that for me is when food starts to become something else.
"Some of them did miraculously well; there were some some times who didn't quite get the brief."
But wacky flavour combinations or technical tricks without purpose don't impress him.
"I made that point to them that You should only use any of this stuff if you can justify it in your head," he says.
"I really want to see your thought process. But it's human nature. You have to keep reminding them less is more."
Despite turning 50 last year, Heston says he's still a big kid with more to learn.
From researching the links between language and food to developing a new Food Prep and Nutrition GCSE for British high school students and writing a new children's cook book, he's always firing on all cylinders.
"It certainly feels like after 20 years (since The Fat Duck opened) I'm now just beginning," he says. "I feel like I've done a long apprenticeship.
"I'm always reading, researching, questioning. I'm like a big kid; I want to play in the big sandpit."
MasterChef's Heston Week begins on Sunday at 7.30pm on Channel 10.