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TV Review: Marcel's Quantum Kitchen

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Monday, March 21 2011 and posted in Reviews

Former Top Chef contestant Marcel Vigneron comes to Syfy with his own brand of cooking show, and The Outhouse has your advance review of the first episode!

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Syfy unveils an exciting culinary series for a new era, MARCEL'S QUANTUM KITCHEN, featuring the imaginative techniques of molecular gastronomist Marcel Vigneron, one of America's biggest connoisseurs of the future of food.

In the series premiere, airing Tuesday, March 22 at 10pm ET/PT, Marcel starts a groundbreaking catering company that will combine mind-blowing food with extraordinary events.  He invites three of his most creative culinary colleagues on his new adventure – mixologist chef Devon Espinosa, cook and jack-of-all-trades artist Jarrid Masse, and assistant cook and caterer Robyn Wilson.  For his first event, a philanthropist hires Marcel to cater an elaborate event to increase awareness for the Wildlife Waystation, an animal refuge and sanctuary.  Marcel and his team create an amazing safari-themed party.  The menu includes an edible map and "Himalayan Tiger's Breath," which is prepared using liquid nitrogen.  The scope of the party is so massive, however, Marcel wonders if he has bitten off more than he can chew.  But he will stop at nothing in order to pull off an evening filled with unforgettable dishes in a truly magical setting.   Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is produced by Mission Control Media. Dwight D. Smith, Michael Agbabian, Andrew Scheer and Dana Leiken Richards are Executive Producers.


When he was a "cheftestant" on The Bravo Network's TOP CHEF, Marcel Vigneron came to be known as the talented by exceptionally cocky young chef whose avant-garde cooking techniques opened a lot of eyes to the possibilty of what can be done with science in the name of food (and vice versa).  He was the runner up in TOP CHEF's second season (where he was the intended target of a frat-boy style head shaving incident), and was invited back to compete in the soon-to-be-concluded "All-Star" edition (where he did not fare quite as well).  In both seasons, he was looked at as the "villain" character that seemingly every reality show needs.  Also in both seasons, there was a lot of chatter about how his pure cooking talent was undeniable. 

Now, Marcel has his own catering business, and with it comes his own show, MARCEL'SMarcel-quantum-kitchen-7-550x366 QUANTUM KITCHEN.  In a recent conference call promoting the show, Marcel expressed that he wanted to use KITCHEN to open people's eyes to molecular gastronomy, which according to him "is a term that's often utilized when referring to chefs collaborating with scientists or chefs that are utilizing science to develop new techniques."  He goes on to say that "the show definitely has an opportunity to showcase to the public a style of cooking that is somewhat unknown. I feel like a lot of people aren't really aware of this particular style of cooking, or utilizing a lot of these new techniques."  Molecular gastronomy is very much on display here, and that is when the show is at its best. 

marcels-quantum-kitchenIn tomorrow night's series premiere, Marcel and his team are hired to cater a fundraiser for Wildlife Waystation, and in their brainstorming session, they come up with the idea to make food that looks like animals and animal environments, (a process known as form-mimickingwhich as the helpful lower-third tells us, means making food and looks and even tastes like something it isn't) such as a "bird's egg" that is actually inflated fresh mozzarella infused with a golden cherry tomato sitting in a "nest" of deep fried potato.  The great thing about the middle section of the show is that that's when the techniques take center stage.  The catering team comes up with the concept for a dish first, and then figure out afterwards how they're going to execute it.  That leads to a series of trial and error experimentation as theoretical ideas give way to practical applications.  The outcome is various dishes of food that look just phenomenal.  The final third of the show is the fundraiser itself.  Whereas initially it seemed that Marcel would simply cater the event, it becomes clear that Marcel pretty much is the event.  He's there at every step presenting the food to the partygoers and then soaking up the feedback.  There is some drama as to whether or not the dinner will go off without a hitch (or, more appropriately, whether the hitches can be minimized), but this is clearly the segment meant to appeal to fans of TOP CHEF, and culinary shows like it. 

It's really quite engaging to see how Marcel and his team figure out how they're going to execute their big ideas, but it also leads to a lot of drama, since very little goes according to plan, and all the experimentation leads to the team falling behind schedule.  It isn't long before the idea of firing a member of the team comes up.  We see shades of the TOP CHEF Marcel, as he lets loose with little jabs at people whom he feels aren't working up to his standard (he doesn't get overtly mean-spirited until the second episode).  Marcel acknowledges to viewers in the show's open that he came off like an arrogant douchebag on TOP CHEF, but that "I'm not really like that."  That's the rub, really.  Marcel was clearly the "villain" on TOP CHEF, where he had judges and other contestants on the show to yell at him when he got out of line.  On QUANTUM KITCHEN, however, he's the man in charge.  Obviously, his personality is a big reason why he's been so successful on television, but the producers and editors need to find a way to incorporate their "Marcel being Marcel" moments without outright alienating the audience.  The series premiere does do a good job of walking that tightrope, but Marcel does not seem like a guy who can be easily reigned in. 345768

QUANTUM KITCHEN is really dedicated to highlighing the science of molecular gastronomy, and the whole look of the show displays a lot of Future Cool.  The frame is filled with shiny stainless steel and geometry at all times (hexagons all around!), and the onscreen motion graphics look like something out of a science educational video at times, but they are effective and they do their job in making things easier to follow.  There are all kinds of ingredients and equipment being used that look like they were procured from a chemistry or biology lab. 

The fact that the viewer actually goes through the process with Marcel and the team as they figure out how they will execute each dish is the main draw of the show, and that can really be a lot of fun.  It is definitely a lot of fun, and a great new take on the classic cooking show. 

Review by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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