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OMG: Out to lunch… on Mount Everest

Top UK chef Sat Bains to become first to cook a Michelin-starred meal on slopes of world’s highest mountain.

If you’re feeling ‘peakish’ and into culinary ‘heights’ both steep in price and locale, look no further (or higher) than a luxurious three-course dinner on the slopes of Mount Everest. Sat Bains wants to become the first man to cook a ‘top-nosh’ meal on Everest’s North Col, a sharp-edged pass that is more than 7,000 metres above sea level. Ahead of the feat planned for April, the 44-year-old restaurateur, who runs two Michelin-starred eateries in Nottingham, UK, says he is preparing food that can be dehydrated and then rehydrated up on top of the mountain.

What inspired you to take on this challenge?

I was approached last year by British adventurer Neil Laughton , who was planning to break the world record for ‘The World’s Highest Dinner Party’ to dine at 7,100 metres on Mount Everest. He was looking for an adventurous chef to get on board with the project, to design a high-altitude menu for the team and create something quite technically unique.

What is the main point of it?

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I suppose the main reason for the trip is charitable. We’re raising money through sponsorship for Community Action Nepal and also through me for Hospitality Action – an industry charity. But in parallel for me there was another couple of challenges. The initial one was creating three courses of food that could be dehydrated here and successfully rehydrated at 7,100 metres without losing texture or flavour. And now there is the physical and mental preparation involved in getting ready for what will be the most demanding challenge I’ve put my body through.

What’s on the menu?

To start will be a wheat soup that will be full of umami flavours and kombu [a type of kelp]. Then there will be a high protein course, packed with flavour with slow-cooked beef. Dessert will end with an energy kick of chocolate and caramel with salt and miso.

How will you be preparing the food up there?

It will be vacuum-packed for the best part, then it will be reheated in individual bags or in a pan. That part is yet to be decided.

Does food taste differently at such a high altitude?

Yes, it does. Studies have been conducted in Germany that have demonstrated that our sense of taste decreases by about 30% with high altitude as our taste buds along with our bodies adapt to atmospheric air pressure. The extreme low temperatures also affect our olfactory senses as we breathe. Since 80% of how we taste food arrives through our sense of smell, this too impedes taste.

What’s the time scale for climbing Everest?

The entire trip will take a month. That gives us time to acclimatize, then get up and back down again.

Do you already have experience of climbing such high mountains?

None at all. The highest I’ve been, is skiing in the Alps. But I’m not really scared. Naturally I’m a bit apprehensive but I’m really excited too. Kind of like that nervous energy I have before a busy service – only multiplied by ten!

 
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