Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marcel Vigneron: Molecular Gastronomist and Time Traveler?

In an interview with LA Weekly, Marcel "Wolverine" Vigneron, contestant on Top Chef Season 2 and now, apparently, chef at an L.A. restaurant called Bar210, claims to have taught himself spherification sometime in or before 2001:

MV: ... I taught myself spherification in a garage in New York while I was getting my associates degree. I called elBulli before I'd even been there and got on the line and asked them for a sample packet of chemicals. And they mailed me the chemicals.

SI: You can do that? You can get those through the mail?

MV: Yeah, no problem. This was totally pre-9/11. They sent me little gram bags of each one, all labeled. So I was doing research online and found Ferran's recipe for apple caviar and bought a little digital gram scale and was trying to make it. I remember me and my friends we made coffee caviar, and we were like blown away. We were like, Oh this is the coolest thing.
Which is pretty remarkable, considering that spherification wasn't introduced as a technique at elBulli until 2003. In any event, forgive me if I'm not too impressed: if you ask me, any idiot with the right supplies and a recipe can pull off spherification.


  1. Ok, I have two thoughts:
    1- I really dislike people with oversized egos like his.
    2- I know that as a food lover, I should totally be impressed by spherification... but I honestly don't get the point of it. It just does nothing for me.

  2. On your #2 - as is true of much cooking, I think the technique (here, spherification) is not in itself the ticket to greatness, it's all how it's implemented. I'd agree that too often, it's just a gimmick tried out for novelty's sake.

    But I've had some iterations that I've really enjoyed: at Jose Andres' minibar in DC, they served a spherified (and carbonated) mojito that was vividly flavored and was a great sensory experience.

    At Paradigm dinners at Neomi's, I had little soy caviar which accompanied a fish dish, which were a great delivery method for a dash of salty soy flavor without soaking a dish in sauce.

    But just because you can spherify something doesn't mean it'll be good (and in fact, depending on the technique used it can actually mute flavors).

  3. Can you explain how the Paradigm dinners work at Neomi's? How often are they? Are they only done upon special request?


  4. The Paradigm dinners used to be a once a week thing at Neomi's, reservation only. Unfortunately they stopped doing it several months ago, though we have done a couple Cobaya events with the chefs there, Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano.

  5. Ditto on the spherified mojito at minibar. When you dined there were they serving the parmesan "egg" w/ migas? That was amazing!

    A couple other cool uses i've tried included an oyster amuse w/ a cocktail 'orb', which added a cool burst of cocktail sauce when punctured. Also, a dish at Alinea called 'Butter and Friends" (or something along those lines) included lobster medallions, corn, popcorn, mango, curry, and buttered popcorn puree and was all brought together by a large orb of clarified butter which oozed all over everything when broken... just gluttonous!

  6. Forgot about the parmesan "egg" at minibar, that is another good one.

  7. I ate there last week - the bar is in the Beverly Hilton. Absolutely divine.

    Frod, I really like your writing, and your blog/twitter has influenced me to eat at places I would never otherwise know about. Thanks.