Published: Tuesday, 22 March 2011 18:31 | Written by Karen Moul
Top Chef all-star Marcel Vigneron is back on the air this week with his new reality show, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen. The series premieres tonight (Tuesday, March 22) at 10 pm on Syfy.
That's right, a personality-driven reality cooking show on Syfy. As the network strays further from its science fiction roots, critics and viewers have been scratching their heads wondering how this show fits into Syfy's plan. But Marcel's focus on molecular gastronomy – using scientific techniques and tools to create innovative dishes – could make sense if the show plays up the science enough.
"I know it seems kind of like an abstract fit," says Marcel. "But once you see the show I feel like it's totally going to make sense. We focus on a lot of the same things. Syfy is all about 'imagining greater,' which is essentially what I and my culinary team are all about."
The series focuses on Marcel creating fabulous events for the well-heeled clients of his new catering company. In addition to creating the menus, Marcel will work with clients and party planners to create an entire experience.
"Obviously," he says, "as a chef my main focus is the food and making sure that everything tastes delicious, is cooked appropriately, and looks amazing." And he'll use his full arsenal of scientific ingredients to create incredible dishes.
But Marcel will also get involved with the theme and décor. "I have begun to dabble in some of these other areas and I really enjoy it. And I think that it's important. When you look at a dining experience as a whole, it's not just about the food, it's about the service, it's about the ambiance, it's about the setting."
"And I think that when you have this harmonious relationship between the chef and the party planner or the front and the back of the house, you have this synergistic effect where the sum of the parts is more than the whole."
In tonight's episode, Marcel's team caters a fundraiser for the Wildlife Waystation, an exotic animal refuge. The safari-themed party includes an edible map and "Himalayan Tiger's Breath," which is created using liquid nitrogen.? Of course, Marcel and the event planner don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but he is determined to make the event unforgettable.
Read the full interview with Vigneron below and be sure to tune in tonight to Syfy for the premiere of Marcel's Quantum Kitchen.
QUESTION: How did the show originally come about?
MARCEL VIGNERON: So this show has actually been maybe three years in the making. And 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. We re-cut the pilot a couple different times and shot some new footage.
They decided it was a show that they wanted to see made. And then the rest is history. We took the bull by the horns and made it.
QUESTION: Syfy is not exactly known for cooking shows, so how did you approach them and how did this show end up on this channel?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well, I know it seems kind of like an abstract fit. But once you actually see the show I feel like it's totally going to make sense.
And one of the ways we bridge that gap between Syfy and doing a cooking show and me being on it is the fact that...we focus in on a lot of the same things. Syfy is all about "imagining greater," which is essentially what I and my culinary team are all about.
So we have the same basic philosophy. And we focus in on a lot of the scientific aspect of cooking as well. So you've got a lot of science, and it's kind of educational. But at the same time it's all about creativity and teamwork. So that's how we [walk] both roads together, so to speak.
QUESTION: How did you find the first couple of clients for your new catering business?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Typically what happens is the clients just contact me.
So for the first two episodes, the Wildlife Waystation had contacted me. In other events, the client will contact a party planner and the party planner will contact me. So in the case of the second episode, with the engagement party, I was actually contacted by a party planner.
So usually it's one or the other; it'll either be the party planner or the client will contact me directly depending on the event.
QUESTION: What you're doing is relatively new. Do a lot of people know about you and what you're doing? Would there be concern on the part of a party planner with your doing really experimental, cool techniques?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Yes, I think people know about me and what I've been doing. I'm pretty sure. I guess I have a reputation or a popularity -- I'm not really sure what you're asking.
But yes, people do know about me. And it's not like when people ask me to cater a party they're not undertaking a risk or something like that. I'm actually pretty decent at what I do. And I make sure that I deliver an amazing experience to my guests -- if that makes any sense.
It's not like somebody was going to not have anything to eat because I utilized new cooking techniques.
But I totally know what I'm doing and make sure that I deliver a great experience to my guests. And yes, I utilize new cooking techniques and different ingredients and new pieces - and new types of equipment. I'm developing my own 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. But I make sure at the end of the day that we definitely have a deliverable experience and delicious food for our guests.
QUESTION: I've noticed that liquid nitrogen was one of the things that you seem to use a lot. With that or any of the other techniques, have there ever been accidents? Is this ever dangerous for you or is it pretty safe?
MARCEL VIGNERON: 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.
I mean think about it, you're constantly wielding knives which are extremely sharp. The floors can be slippery; you're [working] 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 ingredients that I utilize quite a bit inside the kitchen is liquid nitrogen. And it's basically just like the same thing. 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. And that's just because we - safety first. But it's basically just like any other piece of equipment inside the kitchen. Needs to be inspected and, you know, handled with care.
QUESTION: In a few of the [Syfy promo] clips you mentioned, "size does matter," and "food porn." Can you please explain what you were referring to?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Okay yes. Well, I think in the "Size Does Matter" clip I believe we were referring to the size of our taro chip surf boards and if they were too big or too small.
And then "food porn" is a term that's been adopted when we're referring to "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 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 a nice, tight, close up shot of the dish for the viewers at home. And...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.
QUESTION: What was the most extraordinary client request you've had and was it executed exactly as intended?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well I think that I don't actually get that many strange requests on the show because of the mere fact that a lot of my clients are hiring me specifically because they want me to deliver an experience.
And more often than not, they give me free reign for the menu because they want me to go ahead and create these elaborate dishes. And so often times I don't really get a lot of restriction, it's usually more so like, "the sky's the limit," like "Marcel, here's our story, go ahead and create."
So I don't get a lot of really crazy requests. Usually they kind of leave it up to me to go ahead and - it's usually just some sort of normal dietary restriction or something and then I just base the menu off of that.
QUESTION: Would you say what you're doing – fusing food with science – is the future of food?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Good question. 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.
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 the future of food?" I mean, that's kind of a bold statement.
QUESTION: How did you get interested in cooking in general, and at what point did molecular gastronomy become your passion?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Okay. Yes, so I got interested in cooking early on at a very young age, and that was partially because my mom was cooking when I was growing up.
And she would take me into the kitchen with her. So I was kind of familiar with that whole environment. And then as I was growing up and I entered high school, it was time for me to get a job so it was a normal progression for me to start cooking.
And so I started cooking in high school. And then it wasn't until I went to Europe and did a lot of soul searching after I graduated high school, that I decided I wanted to pursue becoming a chef as a career.
And then I went to the Culinary Institute of America and got my Associate's and Bachelor's degrees in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. And I've just been cooking ever since.
And I originally got interested in modern gastronomy when I was at culinary school and started researching [the restaurant] elBulli and a couple other chefs from around the world that were really just pushing the envelope and developing new techniques and creating food that was unlike anything else anybody was doing around the world. And it was just really inspirational for me.
And so I started to do research and development on my own and just really tried to use cooking as a creative outlet and trying to use science as a foundation for understanding the phenomenon that is cooking.
QUESTION: On Top Chef we saw you butt heads with a lot of people. And you often said you were surprised by that; that you always get along with people. So are we going to see a different side of you on this new show?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Yes, I think so -- I hope so. Top Chef is a competition-based show that tends to focus in on the most polarizing moments.
And I think one of the cool things about Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is it's a show unlike any other TV show, 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. A little bit more well-rounded, I must say.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the challenge of overcoming the human element in what you do in order to make the science possible? It seems like that's the hardest part.
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well yes. I feel like it's a combination of both.
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 really need to figure something out and why something isn't working the way that we had planned and what the effects are scientifically.
But then also the shoo-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.
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, for every single party that we cater.
QUESTION: In the series you said that "you can't rush creativity." How does the science give you more options to get there quicker?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Good question. I think that creativity obviously can't be rushed. But at the same time you usually have a deadline for these sorts of things.
And I think in that particular instance I was plating up a dish for the first time that I had had all of these components in front of me and I'd never actually - it was [not] a dish that I frequently do, I'll conceive these dishes in my head, like ahead of time because a lot of the dishes we're actually creating for the first time specifically for a guest.
A lot of the dishes that we make on the show are specifically inspired by that particular client or 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 I don't really know which component is going to go where or whatever the case may be.
And it's kind of like having to do a painting for the first time for a guest who's already bought the painting, right in front of them as there's a ticking clock. So it's kind of challenging.
And I try to utilize science and a lot of these avant-garde techniques to keep me grounded and to also help me out with this. You have on one this whole creative thing going on and then the science is actually concrete, you know? So it provides stability to the whole situation, if that makes any sense.
QUESTION: Besides seeing more of your personality on the show, will we see more about the man behind the food? Do you expose any parts of your personal life? Will we see you outside of the job?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Yes totally, you will indeed. 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.
So that way I can get inside their head and find out what they're all about. So that way when I go back and develop the menu and go through this brainstorming session with my team, we can actually create these dishes that are specifically designed for our client or specifically designed for this particular event.
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. And so we step outside of the kitchen a bit and you will get the opportunity to see that personal life or what we do outside of the kitchen.
QUESTION: Tell me about putting olive oil in your hair. Is that something I should be doing?
MARCEL VIGNERON: 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 drastic temperature changes, my scalp gets kind of dry. And occasionally a little drop of olive oil totally does wonders.
And apparently rosemary is supposed to be really good too, I guess. But yes, I mean try it out, see if it works for you.
QUESTION: With the explosion of food television and food television programming, is it enough nowadays to just be a really good chef or do you have to go on television? Do you have to do something else to get to the level where you're at now?
MARCEL VIGNERON: No, I think that's definitely enough, for sure. I think that there are several chefs out there right now that have just proven themselves inside of the kitchen and are just amazing chefs. I don't think that it's a necessity to go on television to be a successful chef. Is that what you're asking me?
QUESTION: Take someone like Bobby Flay for example; obviously he's got a lot of successful restaurants. But is he Bobby Flay without being on television? Or even with your show – do you get some of these opportunities just by being a great chef? Or does it help that people know you from Top Chef?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well I think that it definitely helps. And 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.
But at the same time, I've also been cooking for over a decade. I have worked for Joe Roberson, I worked for Michael Mina in 2000, opening up The Bazaar by Jose Andres and working for all these amazing chefs, and for having cooked for over 10 years.
And so I feel like that the hospitality industry; it's not easy. You definitely have to pay your dues. And I've been fortunate enough to have these opportunities. But I wouldn't necessarily say [being on TV is] a necessity. I think that food is hotter now than it's ever been.
And I feel like people like Julia Child and celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have...propelled the industry and had the opportunity to not only educate the public but also 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.
But I also wouldn't go so far as to say that, "You have to do that to be a successful chef nowadays." I mean there [are] several chefs out there [who] are exactly that, [who] 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.
But it's a completely different animal. I feel like, yes it's a totally different animal.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about your team -- about Devon and Jarrid and Robyn?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well, I have an amazing team. And they all have unique talents. I've known Devon for quite some time. We actually went to culinary school together way back in the day and he ... is an amazing mixologist...I've known him since I was in culinary school. And so he actually has quite a - he has some chops inside the kitchen as well. So a really great member to have on my team because of that dichotomy.
And then also Jarrid is, you know, Jarrid's [a jack] of all trades. I utilize Jarrid for several different things. And he's a pretty integral part of our team.
And it's a funny story of how I actually met Jarrid. I met him outside of the kitchen, when he was performing at the Viper Room actually, with his band. And three days later, I just noticed he showed up to work and he was one of my food runners at the restaurant. And then about a week later he came up to me and he was like, "Marcel, I don't want to [serve] food, I want to be cooking food."
And so that's something that resonated really close to me because I originally - I started off as a bus boy. And I was a dishwasher and then I was a busboy. But more importantly, I had told my chef at the time the exact same thing. I said, "Hey, I'd rather be back there cooking food then out here running food."
And so when Jarrid said that to me it just - it resonated really, really deeply. And I was more than happy to take him under my wing as almost like somewhat of a protégé, and kind of like my own little personal project.
So I've been cooking with him ever since and helping him develop his technique. And he is just a great guy to have around because not only does he cook but he has all these other outlets that are pretty amazing and that I try to utilize. Whether we're building edible centerpieces for the table or breathing fire, or whatever the case may be, he's just a great guy to have and a great member of the team.
And then lastly we have Robyn, who probably has the least amount of experience cooking, but nevertheless is a very important part of the team and really contributes a lot.
She has more experience dealing with the front of the house and with the big business aspect of catering -- which is something that I definitely wanted to have on my team considering the fact that it's a relatively new company and I needed somebody with experience in that whole aspect, considering I mainly focus in on the cooking.
But so yes, it's a really great group of people. And we have an interesting thing going. And it, just because of the fact that I know a lot of these people, and the members of my team I've known for quite some time. And they're all actually kind of close friends of mine.
And it puts me in a precarious situation because it's difficult to be friends with somebody and then also be their boss because nobody really wants to be told what to do by their friend. So it kind of puts me in a little bit of a sticky situation sometimes.
But at the same time, because of the fact that we are friends, we're really able to overcome any sort of trials and tribulations that we face along the way when we're catering these parties.
QUESTION: You spend time with clients to get to know them and become inspired. A chef typically doesn't really spend as much time with the diners. How are you finding that part of the business? How do you like dealing with clients?
MARCEL VIGNERON: I really enjoy it actually. I enjoy it quite a bit. And I think it makes such a huge difference in the resulting party. And it's - what we do with the catering company is totally different than a restaurant experience.
Because if you think about it when you go out to dine at a restaurant, you pick up the menu, and you basically order from what's available. And with the catering company and with the unique experiences that we deliver, it's a little bit different.
It would be like going into a restaurant and having the chef come out to your table, do a little like interview process, and then you don't even have to make any decisions.
Like, their chef would go back in the kitchen, create the dishes, and then you would have a unique dining experience that was specifically catered around your likes, your dislikes, any sort of information that came up during the process.
So I think that it's totally different from a regular - than a restaurant dining experience. And that's kind of one of the cool things about what we do with the parties.
QUESTION: While your focus is mainly in the kitchen, you've been getting involved in things like centerpieces and décor. And you're creeping maybe a little bit into the event production side. How do you enjoy that?
MARCEL VIGNERON: It's something that I really like and I enjoy quite a bit. Obviously as a chef my main focus is the food and making sure that everything tastes delicious, is cooked appropriately, looks amazing, and focusing in on that whole facet of the gem is my primary focus.
But yes, I have begun to dabble in some of these other areas and I really enjoy it. And I think that it's important. When you look at a dining experience as a whole, it's not just about the food, it's about the service, it's about the ambiance, it's about the food, it's about the setting.
So there's all these other impacting factors. And I just want to make sure that we deliver the most amazing experience for our guests.
And that having been said, I've started to take on a little bit more as a chef and started really working with these event planners to make sure that we're on the same page. And the front of the House and the back of the House are coming together to create one harmonious experience.
And so that way, we're all on the same page. And if my party planner or my event coordinator comes up with some amazing idea, I'm there to listen to it and be like, "Wow, you know what, that's brilliant. I never thought of that. That's a great idea for one of those dishes, like I'm going to do that."
Or for example the other way, if I'm actually going through the dining room or the House or wherever the particular event is taking place and I'm like, "Hey, what if we put this over there?"
"Or what if we really focus on evoking sort of a theme, and working with the edible centerpieces and the plates," and all that sort of thing has become really fulfilling for me.
And I think that when you have this harmonious relationship between the chef and the party planner or the front and the back of the House, you have this synergistic effect that takes place where the sum of the parts is more than the whole.
And when you're bouncing these ideas off of each other, you can end up in a different place than say if you were just trying to do it all yourself. So yes, I really enjoy working with these party planners and offering up some ideas to deliver a more unique, well rounded experience.
QUESTION: You have talked about maybe doing a book and starting a restaurant. Is there anything new on either of those projects? And as far as the book goes, will that be a cook book or something else?
MARCEL VIGNERON: So I'm actually still working on both the cook book and the restaurants. They're kind of on hold because the project of the catering company was something that I recently took on and was my primary focus. And now that I have the catering company up and going, I'm continuing to work on the book and the restaurant as well.
And the book - I have two different ideas that I'm trying to write up right now and trying to get the format for. One of which is a cook book. And it's actually for home cooks. And it's kind of like demystifying a lot of these avant-garde techniques, and just showing cooks at home how to use science. And how a little bit of education - I mean a little bit of know-how and a little bit of science and some creativity can really help the home cook create awesome delicious dishes.
And so that's where the cook book is focusing. And then there's also another one that I'm working on which is more like memoirs and just crazy stories of my life in the hospitality industry. But I think the cook book is the one that's going to come out first.
And then as far as restaurants go, I'm still working on locations and concepts because the catering company has been quite the undertaking here in Los Angeles. So it's on hold but still in the works. It's on the backburner, so to speak.
QUESTION: In that first episode [of Marcel's Quantum Kitchen], you inflated the mozzarella to make the egg for the wildlife sanctuary episode. What did you use to inflate that mozzarella?
MARCEL VIGNERON: So we actually did it a couple different ways. And I've since actually figured out how to make that. Which often times, with a lot of these parties, we're working on these new techniques we've never tried before.
And so some of them work and some of them don't. And often times, you have like such a limited window because we're actually catering these parties. And there's a serious timeframe that we have to follow.
And if something doesn't work out, I'll usually go back and try to re-work it and figure out where the mistake lied, or how I can actually fix something. So that way if I want to utilize that technique again in the future, and just for my own personal know-how.
But so what I injected that mozzarella with was I - well, I'll just go from the beginning and just basically explain the technique. So I took fresh cow's milk curds, and actually made my own mozzarella. And then from that mozzarella, we injected it with a tomato water sort of foam, if you will.
And what actually propelled the mozzarella to blow up like a balloon was the compressed gas that was inside of the siphon that we used to make the foam, essentially. So it was the nitrous oxide.
So the gas is what propels the mozzarella to expand in a balloon. And then simultaneously, you're also injecting the espuma inside of it.
So it's killing two birds with one stone; on one hand you have the gas that's not only aerating the tomato water and giving it like this really nice sort of like fluffy light consistency; but it's also propelling the curds or the mozzarella to expand like a balloon.
QUESTION: If someone is coming to your show unfamiliar with you from Top Chef and never heard of molecular gastronomy, how would you describe it?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well it's actually - molecular gastronomy is a term that's often utilized when referring to chefs collaborating with scientists or chefs that are utilizing science to develop new techniques.
And so basically, cutting-edge cooking...
QUESTION: You speak a lot about inspiration. Is there anything that you would like to attempt, food-wise, that you haven't yet?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Oh, yes. I would like to - Madrid Fusion is a pretty large gastronomic conference that takes place every year in Spain with a lot of the leading chefs from around the world, and I've never been. I think that'd be a really fun conference to attend. Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: What do you feel it is about the show, Quantum Kitchen, that will attract viewers and keep them tuning in?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well I think one of the interesting things about Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is the fact that it's a show unlike anything else on television right now.
It's not a competition show and it's not a demo-style show; it's more so, just about showcasing to the public a new style of cooking and basically what happens when you combine a little bit of science, some creativity and a little know-how.
And I think that the show has the opportunity to kind of open up people's minds and kind of change their paradigms to what food can actually be when combined with those ingredients.
QUESTION: Early on, did you ever expect that you would have your own show?
MARCEL VIGNERON: No. I mean if you would have told me like five years ago that I was going to be on two seasons of the hottest cooking show, so I was going to be on Top Chef and then I was going to have my own show on the Syfy Network, I would have told you that you were crazy.
I would have been like, "No way." So no, I didn't really anticipate my career going in this path, but at the same time it happened so organically and naturally that it makes sense.
QUESTION: Do you see the show as a way to open up molecular gastronomy to more people, kind of demystify it for people?
MARCEL VIGNERON: I do indeed. I feel like 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.
And I'm hoping that the show has the opportunity to expose people who aren't aware of this style cooking and just really showcase the fact that - I don't know, what food can be when you mix a little bit (unintelligible).
And it's opened up people's minds to a lot of these new techniques and I don't know, creativity and all that good stuff.
QUESTION: What kinds of things have you learned about television production, having been on TV so much?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Okay yes. So it's interesting. Dealing with production is a completely different animal. And I have the fortunate opportunity to have dealt with it quite a bit.
And it's totally different from being a chef per se. I feel like in the beginning I was just mainly focusing in on cooking and dealing with the ingredients.
And now having my own show, it's a completely different animal. When you crossover from being a chef into a celebrity chef, there's all these sorts of different things and different qualities that you have to have.
For example, dealing with the media or dealing with the production companies, having to cook with cameras around you, and all that sort of stuff. And it becomes quite challenging.
And I feel like, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen, the development of the show, was actually pretty challenging because I've never made my own food show before. The production company that I'm working with, Mission Control, had never done a food show before. And Syfy had never done a food show before.
So all three of us were doing this for the first time together. And I think that's why we ended up creating this show that's unlike anything else on TV right now, because of the fact that none of us had done it before.
And when combined together, we all had these crazy ideas of what the show was going to be, what it could be, and how we could actually make it.
And so I really enjoy dealing with the production aspect of the show. And it's been a long crazy road and I've actually - I've learned a lot from it. And I enjoy it actually. And I'm actually quite thankful that I get to see this aspect of TV production and cooking shows.
QUESTION: Why do you think food television is always so successful and so popular?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Well I think that food in general, not just television, is hotter now than it's ever been.
And I think that that's partially because of Food Television, and people like Julia Child and people like Emeril and all the other celebrity chefs that are doing television that are not only educating the general public, but also creating this fascination.
And I think food is something that resonates with everybody so intimately, because we all have our own preconceived notions and we've all grown up with food. And everybody eats all the time, everywhere. And it's something that everybody can relate to.
And so when you have something that everybody can relate to it, I think it only makes sense that (unintelligible) in popularity because it's something that resonates with everybody so intimately.
It's something that we've all been doing...and I think that that could partially have something to do with a little bit of the popularity.
And also it's fascinating -- food is so fascinating. Cooking is really one of the only occupation that requires you to utilize every single one of your senses. You have to use your sense of smell, taste, sight -- everything.
I mean cooking in and of itself is an amazing thing. And I think that that's why it's becoming so popular.
...Not to mention the fact that you get to eat it afterwards, you know? It's delicious.
QUESTION: How have you grown as a chef since [season two of Top Chef] and what new stuff will we see you bring to your new show?
MARCEL VIGNERON: Yes, so since I've been on Top Chef, I've had several pretty amazing cooking experiences. And I've grown as a chef and as a person in a couple different ways.
My actual style of cooking has been a little bit refined. I feel like as a chef I've gone through this phase where in the beginning I was curious about all these new cooking techniques. And in the beginning I might have just been utilizing them to utilize them, just because I could or just because it was new.
And now as a chef, I show restraint and I don't utilize a technique just to do it. Everything has to make sense and it has to taste delicious. And I feel like nowadays I'll only use certain techniques where they're appropriate. Because if it doesn't make sense, then what's the point?
And so I feel like as a chef, I'm a little bit wiser when it comes to actually composing dishes, so to speak.?
QUESTION: What will you bring to the show that's bigger and more fantastic than what we've seen on Top Chef?
MARCEL VIGNERON: One of the different things about Marcel's Quantum Kitchen versus Top Chef is on Top Chef we have all these quick fire challenges. And they're exactly that; they're challenges that have a lot of restraint.
And with Marcel's Quantum Kitchen the sky's the limit. I have an amazing team behind me that's helping me create these dishes. I've got inspiration where I'm working with these clients and really coming up with delicious menu items that [are] inspired.
But I have a little bit more time. I'm not given six minutes with one hand tied behind my back. And I'm actually given the time and the resources that I need to actually come up with some delicious dishes.
So the food that you see me create on Marcel's Quantum Kitchen is completely different than the food that I create on Top Chef just because I don't have the same sort of limitations or restrictions that I had on Top Chef.
And I'm also in a better space. I'm really inspired by the clients that I'm cooking for, and I have this amazing team. So yes, the food is completely different.
I'm sure you'll see a lot more - a lot cooler techniques when I'm actually given that - the time and the resources that I need to execute some of these very difficult and technical dishes that I'm trying to create.
Because I can remember some challenges on Top Chef, if you're given a roll of quarters, five minutes and put in front of a vending machine, I'm not going to make the most amazing thing.
But you give me a budget of a couple thousand dollars and a couple days, it's a completely different ballpark.
QUESTION: What was your favorite experience from your time on Top Chef?
MARCEL VIGNERON: That's a good question. Favorite experience from my time on Top Chef. I think I have two; is that okay?
So one of my most memorable experiences from Top Chef was flying into Waipio Valley on a helicopter and having a traditional luau with the other contestants and with Tom (Colicchio) and Padma (Lakshi) and Allen (Wong).
And just to sit down in that beautiful taro farm in Waipio Valley. And seeing the black sand beaches was just ... absolutely breathtaking.
And to be able to get that traditional Hawaiian experience was remarkable and something that I'll never forget. And so that was really incredible and definitely up there as one of my top experiences. And that was during the finale of Season 2.
And then more recently, I really enjoyed fishing out at the lighthouse in Montauk Point. I thought that that was a really good, really fun challenge. I ended up catching three striped bass that day.
And as a chef, any time that I get that close with my ingredients -- like if I'm actually procuring them myself, or if I'm foraging or harvesting the vegetables, or catching the fish, or slaughtering the animal, I instantaneously get this very intimate relationship with the dish that I'm creating. Because you're so closely connected to the ingredients, it's very inspirational.
And I get all emotional any time I'm that close to? the ingredients for the dish that I'm trying to create. And I love fishing. So that was a pretty remarkable experience.
QUESTION: Have you thought about what is next in your career? Or are you too focused on the show to even think about that?
MARCEL VIGNERON: No, no, no. I'm always trying to figure out what's next and planning for the future. And so now that I have the catering company up and running, I feel like the next logical step in my career is a restaurant.
I feel like that's a natural progression. And I would love to do a restaurant here in Los Angeles. And I feel like that's the next big step for me.
I'll do that and maybe Season 2 [of Marcel's Quantum Kitchen]. We'll see what happens.