Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen – Nifty Food; Whiny Chef!


I get how Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen [Tuesdays, 10/9C] would appeal to the brass at Syfy. Chef Marcel Vigneron specializes in molecular gastronomy, with techniques that meld cutting edge science with traditional culinary expertise to produce [when it works] dishes that are out of this world.

In the series premiere of Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, the hand-picked team of Marcel’s catering company face a real challenge when they are hired to produce the food for an awareness-raising dinner for the Wildlife Waystation, an animal refuge and sanctuary. The challenge is to create and execute a unique menu in four days.

Marcel’s team – mixologist/chef Devon Espinosa, cook and jack-of-all-trades artist Jarrid Masse and assistant cook/caterer Robin Wilson – are further pressured by the party’s event planner being too busy to walk the space with Marcel, making set up a further adventure. On top of that, you can add the party host’s nerves.

The team brainstorms and Jarrid’s idea for a safari-themed party is chosen. Dishes will be based on different areas of the world and live animals from the Wildlife Waystation will be integrated into the design of the party space.

Now the fun begins – creating the dishes and coming up with four solid courses; satisfying the host’s taste buds and esthetic sense, and finding a way to co-ordinate the design of the space, placement of the animals and delivering the goods, food-wise – and, hopefully, finishing up with satisfied partygoers and acclaim for Marcel’s company.

Dishes include items like an edible map [made from apple butter], Bird’s Nest Surprise [poached cherry tomatoes in a bird’s nest of shredded potato and a white tomato foam, a meat dish made to look like the felled trunk of a tree and a dessert called Himalayan Tiger’s Breath [prepared using liquid nitrogen].

Right off the top, the team falls behind. Robin isn’t a chef and her first attempt at the edible map is a failure. One of the dishes is a completely failure and a substitute must be created. Even when things work, the host’s pre-party visit finds her less than impressed with the Bird’s Nest Surprise [another dish that didn’t work initially, and had to be re-imagined].

Although the brainstorming and the actual food preparation are interesting and the final sequences at the party are pretty cool, Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen seems even more stagey than most reality shows. First, there’s the whole idea of undertaking a major catering gig with only four days to plan the whole thing from scratch; then there’s the easy to anticipate drama of having the least qualified person undertaking a dish that requires a certain amount of delicacy [the edible maps], and finally, there’s way in which Marcel goes from super-confident to whiny and back at almost every turn – with whiny seeming to be his default setting once the commission is accepted and the actual food preparation begins.

True, the dishes are imaginative [though not something most people will ever be able to replicate at home], and the party is really cool. The show is well shot and looks good even when Marcel is whining, but, really, I can’t see myself watching this series without fast-forwarding through most of his time onscreen.

Of Marcel’s team, we never really see robin when she isn’t stressed, but Jarrid and Devon seem very cool under pressure. None of them has much in the way of screen presence, so it’s the food that carries the show – and, again, it’s not like many of us will be able to replicate it at home, so I don’t think that’s enough to carry the series.

Final Grade: C-