'Top Chef's' Marcel Vigneron cooks up Harry Potter edible wonders at Syfy Tour
Now the upstart chef is traveling to Bravo's sister network Syfy for his upcoming culinary show "Marcel's Quantum Kitchen," and Zap2it got a front row seat for his cooking demonstration Monday (Oct. 11) at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla.
The concept of his show is pretty simple: Vigneron will be a mad scientist caterer, creating a menu to fit a particular event's theme using his creativity and wand of choice -- molecular gastronomy, the application of scientific principles to cooking. For the Syfy Digital Press Tour, Vigneron's alchemy is tested with the Harry Potter theme, appropriate since we'll later visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter after the demonstration. ( Check back with Zap2it for the Potter report.)
"They didn't actually tell me that Harry Potter was the theme until like a week and a half ago," he tells the gathered reporters who are also eating the food he's prepared. "It was really fun to play with. I started doing my homework. I was on MuggleNet, doing all sorts of research and then came up with butterbeer spheres."
Served in a Chinese spoon, the butterbeer spheres are made with cream soda and a reaction between two chemicals. But first, Vigneron uses maltodextrin, which turns fat into powder, on some browned butter to make a nutty brown butter powder, which then gets a few drops of butterscotch flavoring. The spheres -- which are still liquid in the center, but held by a gossamer membrane that bursts upon eating -- are placed alongside the butter powder. Watch as he prepares the spheres (apologies for shaky camera works as I was eating):
Vigneron also wanted to make the spheres double as the golden snitch, but the post office holiday foiled those Quidditch plans.
"I wanted to encase that spherification in [edible] gold, but that wasn't something I ended up doing," he tells Zap2it. "I was FedExing the gold out here so I could wrap the sphere in gold but I didn't know it was going to be Columbus Day, so I couldn't get the gold until tomorrow."
It's apparent that Vigneron is passionate about his food and excited about the Hogwarts theme. What's surprising, however, is the level of wry humor he trots out as he discusses the liquid nitrogen that he uses to chill his pumpkin shake ( above bottom right) -- "It killed the Terminator." -- and the seasonings used for the Scotch-style "dragon's egg" ( above, bottom left) -- "You could tell it was an Italian dragon, right?" The humor works well as he tosses out the multisyllabic tools of his craft.
The chef also uses the liquid nitrogen to create the "Dragon's Breath" popcorn -- a caramel corn bathed in liquid nitrogen and topped with truffle powder -- that produces a "smoke" when exhaled out of the nose and mouth.
"Right now I'm in the middle of building up my laboratory in Hollywood where I'll be doing the majority of my recipe testing on the show," Vigneron adds. "Inside that test kitchen, it's where I'm going to be developing a lot of the techniques and researching dishes and coming up with new menu items. It's really exciting because I'm getting every single gadget and gizmo that I could ever want to experiment with at my disposal."
Before "Marcel's Quantum Kitchen" airs on Syfy, fans can also catch him on Bravo's " Top Chef: All Stars" in December, in which he'll try for the coveted title against the likes of Richard Blais, Carla Hall and more.
One final picture of me (in vaguely Ravenclaw colors) with the wizard himself:
"Marcel's Quantum Kitchen" will amaze and astound beginning in February 2011 on Syfy.
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Photo credits: Zap2it
Thanks to Emma Loggins of Fanbolt.com and Erin Fox of SqueeTV.com for help w/ photography/videography