Being Fergus Henderson

February 9, 2010 · 2 comments

Fergus Henderson

I‘ve written before about chef Fergus Henderson, who has become one of my culinary inspirations. I learned a while ago that the onset and progression of his Parkinson’s disease required him to stop cooking in his own restaurant, taking on the role of conceiving new recipes for his talented staff to execute.

Two recent tweets from Thomas Blythe, manager of the St. John’s restaurants, brought two Henderson-related items to my attention. The first was a link to a short film, On Authenticity:

As you can see, Henderson was exhibiting classic Parkinsonian symptoms. Compare that to this video, shot last year, which I mentioned in an earlier post:

He’s back in the kitchen, and his symptoms have greatly abated. What happened in between? Henderson underwent deep brain stimulation surgery, described in “Me and My Doctor” from The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday magazine.

Read the article; the interaction between Henderson and his doctor is the kind of calm, rational approach that medicine should always strive toward. Sadly, the impact is lessened by the drivel about Emma Thompson and her acupuncturist, but that illustrates two of my biases: science and reason over wishful thinking, and chefs over actors.

2 comments

Darrin February 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I wish I could find some dates for these videos. I have met Chef Henderson and didn’t notice any symptoms myself in 2006, but I wasn’t looking. He was dining with his father the first time I ever ate at St. John. When I saw the pig head video the first time I noticed the symptoms and wondered if things were getting worse again. But now having seen the “On Authenticity” video for the first time I am reminded how horrific this disease is, especially for someone who works so much with their hands. Anyone know exact dates for the recording of these videos?

David February 10, 2010 at 8:50 pm

According to the article, Fergus had the surgery in 2005, so On Authenticity had to have been shot before then. If you look at the video at the top of this post, which was filmed in 2000 or 2001, you can see that he has a bit of a shuffle, and one of his hands is tucked in.

As for the recent pig’s head video: I don’t think he was exhibiting any change in symptoms, he was merely gesturing – probably because he could.

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