Marcel Vigneron is best known as the Top Chef Season Two runner up and molecular gastronomy dweeb. On the popular television competition, his shtick was dipping things in liquid nitrogen and pissing off the other contestants, much like a rabid weasel. After the show, Marcel worked at a few restaurants and got a DUI in 2008. With that much going for him, you would think that some television food network would snatch him up to star in a show. You'd be half right.
Yesterday was the premiere of Marcel's Quantum Kitchen ... on Syfy, of all channels. The show tells the tale of poor Marcel forced to be a caterer of sorts in Los Angeles.
In this first episode, Marcel, along with his team (consisting of a mixologist, a cook/puppeteer/artist and a catering manager) are asked to put together a cocktail reception fundraiser for The Wildlife Station in Los Angeles, an animal sanctuary that looks like it houses large tigers and other predators in flimsy chain-link enclosures.
His client (like many Los Angeles charity benefactors on reality shows) has a short time frame, no ideas and high expectations ("there are important people coming"). The party planner hired has no time to do a walk through or be bothered with Marcel so he's on his own to work his own brand of gastro-magic.
Marcel and his team dream up different concoctions including an edible map made from fruit leather (successful), a hash brown nest with a mozzarella egg (unsuccessful), an edible snake wrapped around a meat log (successful) and a tiger's breath rice cake (extremely successful).
In the show, we see Marcel and his team having small meltdowns, working with difficult people and having the eventual success. What's clever about this show is that the cooking is broken down like a science project.
As each dish is being made (or assembled in some cases), computer generated diagrams display what's happening -- much like how the Discovery Channel demonstrates a volcano erupting or how a T-Rex killed his prey. In one scene, the diagrams assist Marcel in explaining how to sous vide a piece of meat. Another CGI explains how Marcel will pump up a piece of mozzarella cheese with air to create an "egg."
At the end of the episode, despite multiple kitchen failures, Marcel and team manage to scrape by an interesting meal, complete with lots of liquid nitrogen-assisted special effects, including a dessert that has the guests snorting smoke out of their mouths and noses to resemble a tiger's breath in the Himalayas.
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Marcel's Quantum Kitchen seems like a fun new addition to the ever-growing list of food shows. It may not be Paula Deen throwing hams, but any show involving liquid nitrogen and a chef that resembles a hobbit is worth a second look in my opinion.