In the second part of our interview with Bar210 chef Marcel Vigneron, the Top Chef alum continues the conversation about life at The Bazaar, recommending Top Chef contestants, and his new lounge gig at Bar210, which opened recently in the former Trader Vic's location. Read the first part of the interview, and check back later for Vigneron's recipe for boneless chicken wings. (No, you won't need an immersion circulator or a canister of nitrogen.)
Squid Ink: So how long were you at The Bazaar?
Marcel Vigneron: Like a year and a half.
SI: And then you left to come here.
MV: Yep. Well, I left and I just wanted to do something new. It wasn't like I left there and already had this lined up. I just knew that I wanted to do something on my own and take an executive chef position. Because I was pretty much stagnant there. I had reached the executive sous chef level, and then I sent Michael [Voltaggio] off to do Top Chef. I recommended him for the show, and then he went off and then I was managing the restaurant and I applied for the chef de cuisine position, I was like, I'm ready for it. I've been here, I deserve it. And then they brought in another chef who I didn't really get along with. But there was a four month period when there was nobody but me. So I was like, I'm not going to be able to move up through this company.
So I left and took some time off and was catering a lot of parties, doing my own thing, working on my pilot with my production company. And then I met with Diabolical [Bar210 owner Diabolical Nightlife Associates] through a friend of mine in Vegas. That's when I met with Dan [D'Agostino of DNA] and we hit it off. I was in Vegas filming Top Chef University, which is on-line cooking classes, and we started talking. He was like, I want to do food. And I was like, You want to do food in a lounge? Let me stop you there. I'm thinking minimal silverware, super sexy, refined cuisine, updating classics, very plate-to-mouth. So we met and then he showed me the kitchen. The kitchen is massive.
SI: Did you ever think of leaving L.A.?
MV: I thought about it. I mean, I love L.A.; I consider it to be home. I was looking at other opportunities in other cities, but I wanted to try and stay here. So when I found this opportunity, it was like, this is a win-win. I get to stay in L.A., have a chef position, and do my own menu and hire my own staff.
SI: So do you still do stuff with Top Chef?
MV: On occasion. I just did a charity benefit dinner. We raised $40,000 for the owners of Magical Elves. It was me and Michael and Bryan, Antonia. And then they call me from time to time to do certain things. They'll call me for casting advice, like, Who do you have for us this season?
SI: You said that you recommended Michael Voltaggio?
MV: Yeah, and [Season 3 winner] Hung Huynh. I've recommended two out of the three winners since I started recommending people. And then other people: I recommended [Season 4 contestant] Spike Mendelsohn. Hung and I were in the same cooking class at the CIA. We went to school together.
SI: You went to the CIA with somebody else in this circle, right?
MV: I was Spike's residential assistant, which is how I met him, back in the dormitories. Yeah, there was a bunch of us. Ilan [Season 2 winner Ilan Hall] was behind me; we never knew each other. He knew my roommate.
SI: Small world.
MV: Yeah, totally.
SI: So tell us about your show. Marcel's Quantum Kitchen.
MV: It's with Syfy. Essentially it's about creativity and cooking and science and all those things. We're going to film a little bit more, next week and the following week. It's a combination of a lot of things. A little bit of MythBusters, a little bit of A Cook's Tour, a little bit of Alton Brown, kind of reality. All sorts of different things lumped together. It'll be fun and educational and interesting and a lot of creativity involved.
SI: So you teach people how to...
MV: How to cook, and the process and the phenomena that actually happens behind the science of cuisine. Like when you make a mayonnaise, what are you actually doing when you drizzle the oil into the egg yolk. The suspension and the emulsification, and like what do you do when it breaks. If you understand what it actually is then you can fix it and make it better.
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SI: Why the Syfy Channel?
MV: It's like, why DNA? [Diabolical Nightlife Associates.] It was people who believed in me and who reached out to me. It's not the most obvious fit, but yet we both wanted the same things so we came together.
SI: So are you going to do a SyFi BBQ?
MV: More like a throwdown thing. With Bobby.