If you’ve ever watched Bravo’s Top Chef or any show on the Food Network, you know cooking is an art form. It’s a dance in the kitchen, a painting on a plate – it’s making the mere sight of food part of the joy of eating. And if you’ve ever tried your hand at a recipe and something went horribly, horribly wrong, you know cooking is a science. (Try leaving the baking soda out of a batch of chocolate chip cookies – not good.)
Well, now there’s a new television show that brings together the art and science of cooking: Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen. The show, which airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on the Syfy channel, features former Top Chef contestant Marcel Vigneron as he explores his interest in molecular gastronomy, a style of cooking that transforms food with science. In Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, Vigneron makes mozzarella into balloons, watermelon into tuna-like sashimi, wine into pasta, and even more crazy concoctions – all while explaining the science behind the alterations. In the video below, Vigneron changes the texture and flavor of watermelon to mimic tuna (a technique called “form mimicking”). Using a gastro vacuum, he sucks out the oxygen from the watermelon marinated in a mixture of rice wine and vinegar. “What the gastro vac does is suck the air out of the environment, compressing the watermelon – kind of like wringing out a sponge,” he explains. “When the pressure returns to normal, the porous structure of the watermelon sucks in the marinade.” His experiment works and the watermelon takes on the look of tuna sashimi.
And like any other chef, sometimes the cooking experiment doesn’t work out. Vigneron admits a gnocchi experiment didn’t make it out of the test kitchen. “I’ve since gone back to the lab and reworked it,” he said. “That’s something I do with a lot of techniques.” The program not only shows off Vigneron’s artful creations (an edible engagement ring, anyone?) but gives a look into the science of food. It’s a great reminder that even a culinary art form has a science base.