If you would have asked former Top Chef contestant Marcel Vigneron five years ago if he would have his own television show, he would have told you that you were crazy.
“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,” Vigneron said in conference call last week.
Hitting the Syfy network this Tuesday is Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, which follows the 30-year-old chef as he takes on the challenge of running his own catering and event company. In each of the one hour episodes, the audience will see Vigneron and his team deal with client’s demands and the process of creating original and imaginative dishes.
“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 heads and find out what they’re all about. 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.” he explained.
Vigneron is known for his utilization of molecular gastronomy, which he explained is, “a term that’s often utilized with chefs collaborating with scientists or chefs that are utilizing science to develop new techniques. Basically, it’s kind of like cutting edge cooking in and of itself.”
At first glance, a cooking show and Syfy may seem like an “abstract fit,” says Vigneron, but he feels that once the audience sees the show, that they will see that it’s actually a good fit with the network, as he feels that both the show and the network focus on the same thing.
“Syfy is all about imagining greater, which is essentially what myself and my culinary team are all about. We have the same basic philosophy and we focus in on a lot of the scientific aspects of cooking as well. Science is educational, but at the same time it’s all about creativity and teamwork. So that’s how we bring those two worlds together.”
Vigneron started cooking at an early age, and he decided after a trip to Europe that he wanted to pursue being a chef after high school. It was in culinary school where modern gastronomy first peaked his interest.
“I started researching chefs around the world, who were really just pushing the envelope and developing new techniques and creating food that was unlike anything else anybody was doing,” Vigneron explained.
“They were just really inspirational for me. I started to do research and development on my own and just really tried to use cooking as a creative outlet, and tred to use science as like a foundation for understanding the phenomenon that is cooking.”
The audience will also get to meet Vigneron’s team Devon Espinosa, Jarrid Masse, and Robyn Wilson.
“Devon is an amazing mixologist. We actually go way back; I’ve known him since I was in culinary school, so actually he has some chops inside the kitchen as well. [He’s] a really great member to have on my team because of that dichotomy. And also Jarrid, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. I utilize Jarrid for several different things. He’s a pretty integral part of our team,” Vigneron said.
“We have Robyn, who has more experience dealing with the front of the house and the business aspect of catering. [This] is something I definitely wanted to have on my team, concerning the fact that it’s a relatively new company and I needed somebody with experience in that whole aspect. It’s a really great group of people and we have an interesting thing going.”
For those who are already familiar with Vigneron most recently from Top Chef: All-Stars know that the chef hasn’t always been shown in the best light. With Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, he hopes to show a different side to himself.
“Top Chef is a competition-based show that tends to focus in on your most polarizing moments. And I think one of the cool things about Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen is [that] it’s unlike any other show on television right now. I think you will get the opportunity to see a different side of me, a little bit more well-rounded, I want to say,” he explained.
Vigneron thinks that being on Top Chef has definitely provided him with a great platform for his career, yet stressed that the hospitality industry isn’t easy and that he has paid his dues in the kitchen, and doesn’t believe that it’s a necessity for chefs to go on TV to be successful. He also feels those chefs that are on TV have helped the industry.
“I wouldn’t go as far to say that you have to [be on TV] to be a successful chef, nowadays. There are several chefs out there that are exactly that. They just continue to cook and have amazing restaurants and don’t do television. I don’t think that it’s a necessity, it may help, but it’s a completely different animal,” he said.
“I think that food is hotter now than it’s ever been and I feel like people like Julia Child and chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have really fortunately propelled the industry, had the opportunity to not only educate the public, but also spark this curiosity with the public about cooking, about food. It makes people want to understand food a little bit more and where their food is coming from and who’s making their food.”
Vigneron feels that what makes his show stand out and what will keep the audience tuned in is that it’s unlike any other show on TV at the moment, where it’s not a competition or a demonstration type of food-related program.
“It’s more so 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. I think that the show has the opportunity to open up people’s minds and change their paradigms to what food can actually be when combined with those ingredients,” he explained.
Even with his new show debuting this week, Vigneron is constantly looking ahead and planning the next step in his culinary career.
“I would love to do a restaurant here in Los Angeles,” he said. “And maybe season two.”
Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen debuts on Tuesday, March 22 at 10 p.m. on Syfy.