As you might expect, Anthony Bourdain held nothing back while dissing Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, John Mariani, and Alan Richman this week in a Q&A; with Playboy. Puck’s $400 million-a-year empire will probably never feel the blast, but Bourdain also had some choice words for Marcel Vigneron, the young former Top Chef contestant and star of Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen. Asked if there are any food trends that have gone bad, Bourdain responded, “Marcel Vigneron on Top Chef is talented, but he kind of lost the plot. I think molecular gastronomy … has gone over the top. Not all the people who admire Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz or Wylie Dufresne … are as talented as those guys, and they’re going to make silly food.” Since so many people find it easy to bash on Marcel these days, it feels like the perfect time to see how he feels about Bourdain’s recent bludgeoning.
Currently in Tokyo to cook at a two-day pop-up in Shibuya’s Legato restaurant, Marcel offered Grub Street his reaction:
I am a classically trained chef; and as such, there is nothing wrong with utilizing science as a means to understand and improve the art of cooking. I have never made any claims that I cook on an equal level with Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne, or Grant Achatz. For me, being an inspiration for young chefs and “foodies,” who love to try new things, only further drives my passion for and the progression of gastronomy. As with any art, those of previous generations are always resistant to change and variations on a theme; however, time has shown that being inspired by the old, while experimenting with fresh, young ideas and materials, is nearly always appreciated later. Simply put, gastronomy is not “a food trend gone bad.”
This battle has been waged before. Even Vigneron’s former boss at the Bazaar, José Andrés, had similar words for L.A. critic Jonathan Gold when it came to the issue of science either improving cooking or standing in as some sort of a vestigial magic show.
And sure, we like to tease our cheftestants, but is Marcel really that bad? The guy’s just trying to make nitro puffed rice a living.