Royal Nonesuch joined the conference call to talk with Marcel Vigneron about his new show, Quantum Kitchen!
""Marcel Vigneron made a name for himself amongst TV viewers as a "cheftestant" on Top Chef, but Syfy viewers will see Marcel in a new role tonight as he kicks off his new show, Quantum Kitchen, wherein the principles of molecular gastronomy will fit right in with the channel's lineup. Or will it?
"Well I know it seems kind of like an abstract fit," said Marcel. "But once you actually see the show I feel like it's totally going to make sense. One of the ways we bridge that gap between Syfy and doing a cooking show and me being on it is the fact that, you know we focus in on a lot of the same things; Syfy is all about imagining greater, which is essentially what me and my culinary team is all about."
"You've got a lot of like science," he continued, "and it's kind educational. But at the same time it's all about creativity and teamwork.
How did the show come about? Marcel explains, "When I was living in Las Vegas I was approached by two different producers to start working on my own show, wrote up a couple of treatments and found a production company to help us create it. And then I took a meeting with Syfy, who seemed very intrigued and decided to undergo the pilot making process, which we did. They decided it was a show that they wanted to see made. And then the rest is history."
The show's concept may work great for Syfy, but how does a catering business specializing in molecular gastronomy get clients? "Typically what happens is the clients just contact me," said Marcel. "So for the first two episodes, the Wildlife Waystation had contacted me. In other events, actually the client will contact a party planner and the party planner will actually contact me. So in the case of the second episode, with the engagement party, I was actually contacted by a party planner."
"I totally know what I'm doing and make sure that I deliver a great experience to my guests," continued Marcel, addressing the issue of whether clients were worried about his eccentric style. "And yes, I utilize new cooking techniques and different ingredients and new pieces - and new types of equipment. I'm developing my own, like plates. So a lot of the stuff that we're doing is new and creative, but that's just because we think outside of the box."
One of Marcel's favorite ingredients in his interesting brand of cooking is liquid nitrogen (not in the food itself!). Isn't that... dangerous? "I've never had any accidents with - utilizing, working with liquid nitrogen. It is extremely cold. And whenever you're dealing with extremely cold or extremely hot elements, there's a level of danger involved. But I feel like cooking in and of itself is, you know a kitchen is a very dangerous place to begin with," he assured us.
"I mean think about it, you're constantly wielding knives which are extremely sharp. The floors can be slippery, you're doing with hot oil, that's at 450 degrees sometimes. You've got ovens that are at 500 or 600 degrees. You have fire all around the place, which can instantly burn you. And then, yes one of the new things that I - one of the ingredients that I utilize quite a bit inside of the kitchen is liquid nitrogen. And it's basically just like the same thing."
In case you're still worried, Marcel goes on, "Any time you're cooking you have to make sure that you're taking great care and paying attention to what you're doing. And it's the same with liquid nitrogen. But I've never had any accidents with it."
In the promotion for the show, Marcel has used some provocative catchphrases, such as "Food Porn" and "Size Does Matter." Marcel explains, "Well I think in the Size Does Matter clip I believe we were referring to the size of our tarot chip surf boards and if they were too big or too small. And then Food Porn is a term that's kind of been adopted when we're referring to what's "beauty shots." And Food Porn is just another term for describing these beauty shots."
"And often times when we're doing a party - the same thing happens when, whether we're doing Marcel's Quantum Kitchen or Top Chef or any sort of cooking show, often times you'll plate up one extra dish of whatever it is that you're making so that way you can get like a nice, tight, like close up shot of the dish for the viewers at home. And..." the chef trails off, lost in his own imagery.
A moment later, Marcel regains control. "I'm sorry about that. I'm not really sure what happened there. But I think I was - I think I left off somewhere saying something along the lines of - we're referring to beauty shots when we say food porn, which is not to be confused with some sort of porno made with food, I guess -- which is definitely not what we're doing."
So, if not pornography, is Marcel's brand of cooking the future of food? "I think that food will constantly be evolving so you can't ever really put a tag on, like what the actual future of food is, because I don't think anybody really knows," he answers. "But at the same time we do utilize a lot of cutting-edge cooking techniques and equipment to create these dishes. So it is very avant-garde in nature. But you know, can you say, 'It is actually, you know, the future of food?' I mean, that's kind of a bold statement."
What kind of challenges come from combining science with the human element of cooking? Marcel tells us, "The thing about it is when we're working with a lot of these new cooking techniques, it's a matter of trial and error often times. Because a lot of the things that we're trying to execute, a lot of these techniques, I've never even actually done before."
"So sometimes the science does come into play where we actually really need to figure something out and why something isn't working the way that we had planned and what the effects are scientifically," he continues. "But then also the shoe-in, challenge I guess, or whatever you refer to it as, which is kind of like limitations physically sometimes. It can also be the limitations of our environment where we're catering a party and we don't have the necessary equipment or there isn't a kitchen or whatever the case may be."
Marcel finished, "So we're constantly having to overcome all these different challenges, whether it's the science of food, or whether it's personality based, or whether it's our environmental limitations. So I feel like - we have to overcome a combination of all three, like for every single party that we cater."
Where does the inspiration come from for the dishes Marcel will be making on the show? Is it the clients? Marcel answers, "A lot of the dishes that we make on the show are specifically inspired by that particular client or you know, for that particular theme for that particular party. And when that happens, when you're doing these things for the first time, it's kind of challenging because like, I don't really know which component is going to go where or whatever the case may be."
"It's kind of like having to do a painting for the first time for a guest who's already bought the painting, like right in front of them as there's like a ticking clock. So it's kind of challenging."
"I try to utilize science," continues Marcel, "and a lot of these avant-garde techniques to keep me grounded and to, and to also help me out with this. You have on one side you have like this creative, this whole like creative thing going on and then the science is actually concrete, you know? So it provides like stability to the whole situation, if that makes any sense.
When he was on Top Chef, Marcel was known for butting heads with people. WIll we see more of the same on Quantum Kitchen, or will we see another side of Marcel? "Yes, I think so -- I hope so, " Marcel replied. "And the - Top Chef is a - it's a competition based show that tends to focus in on the most polarizing moments. I think one of the cool things about Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is it's a show unlike any other TV show on - or it's unlike any other show on television right now. And I think that you will get the opportunity to see a different side of me. In albeit, a little bit more well rounded, I must say."
Could Quantum Kitchen exist without Top Chef? "I think going on Top Chef provided a great platform for me and led me to doing my own TV show, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen," he replied. "But at the same time, I've also been cooking for over a decade have worked for Joël Robuchon, I worked for Michael Mina in 2000, opening up The Bazarr by Jose Andres and working for all these amazing chefs, and for having cooked for over 10 years."
Regarding the cooking industry, Marcel continued, "You definitely have to pay your dues. And I've been fortunate enough to have these opportunities."
So do you have to have a television show to be a successful chef? "People like Julia Child and celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have really kind of like, fortunately propelled the industry and had the opportunity to not only educate the public but also kind of like spark this curiosity with the public about cooking and about food. And it makes people want to understand food a little bit more and where their food is coming from and who's making their food," Marcel replied. "But I also don't feel that I wouldn't go so far as to say that, 'You have to do that to be a successful chef nowadays.' I mean there's several chefs out there that are exactly that, that just continue to cook and have amazing restaurants and don't do television. I don't think it's a necessity, I think that it may help."
Will the show be focused entirely on the kitchen, or will see more of the personal side of Marcel? "You will indeed," he said. "For every episode, for every event that we cater, I typically like to get together with my clients and spend a couple days with them doing whatever it is that they do. And so often times we'll be going out and for example, we cater a party for (Steve Walden), this legendary surfboard shaper and so I go out, surfing with him to really develop inspiration for this party. And then for each episode every time that we meet with our clients, there will be these inspirational sessions where we go out into the world and we're doing whatever it is that our clients do."
Okay, Marcel, enough about cooking - how about some hairstyling tips? "I'm constantly traveling so I'm going back and forth either between New York and LA. And I feel like often times we have these like drastic temperature changes, my scalp gets kind of dry. And occasionally a little drop of olive oil totally does wonders. Apparently rosemary is supposed to be really good too I guess. But yes, I mean try it out, see if it works for you."
Marcel's Quantum Kitchen premieres RIGHT NOW on Syfy! That's 10/9C, and you can read a review of the episode right here!
Be sure to tune in each week at 10/9C on Syfy, and tune in back here next week for part 2 of the Q&A, where Marcel will tell us about his team, and opening up the field of molecular gastronomy!
Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror