Many thanks to L-money for covering the last episode for me!
A few years ago, this American car manufacturer whose name begins with a C and rhymes with “rysler” was about to go tits-up. This nice guy named Obama decided the car manufacturer was too big to fail and gave it a 10.8-billion-dollar bail out. What did this car manufacturer turn around and do with the money? It had a party and hired this guy to cater it:
Now, you probably think you’ve seen egregious product placement before: that Pringles food reward on Survivor; the Sidekick call of doom on Top Chef. But this? This episode of Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen takes the cake. If Monkey boy dropped his pants, you’d see that he now has “property of Chrysler” stamped on his ass. So, every time someone in this episode says the name of the car manufacturer that begins with “C”, I’m going to type “Toyota” instead. Because pointless, subversive gestures like that really get me off.
Monkey boy brags that Toyota paid to fly him and his whole crew to Detroit to create a sit-down dinner for 30 people. This dinner is “celebrating the students from Toyota’s mentor program at the College of Creative Studies”. No, not the guys who have worked on the assembly line for 40 years and who lost three fingers and will probably still lose their retirement benefits. A bunch of pizza-faced kids who don’t even work for Toyota. One imagines that it was decisions like this—along with the unshakeable belief that the year was still 1956—that led to Toyota’s financial difficulties in the first damn place.
Monkey boy, Jarrid, and Devon (my day job doesn’t use the serial comma; you don’t know how good it just felt to type that thing in there) meet with Nick with No Last Name, a senior designer at Toyota.
Four frozen douche-hair custards, please.
There’s a tour of Toyota’s design area, and a lot of hooey about how “top secret” everything is. Monkey boy and crew have to hand over their cell phones and they’re trying to peek under doors like they think Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox are in there designing the 2012 Batmobile. Nick with No Last Name finally lets them into a design room where a version of the Toyota 200 is being “sculpted” out of modeling clay. Marcel thinks it looks like modeling chocolate and wants to know if you can eat it. Nick says you could, but it would kill you. Of course, Marcel takes this as inspiration for his next gastronomical nightmare. His other incredibly creative ideas involve “wheel-shaped food” and “speed”. He’s a genius, everybody.
That wheel! It's so... round.
Marcel gets taken on the the obligatory high-speed test drive. There’s WHOOOing, etc. But this isn’t Top Gear, it’s a cooking show; so, moving right along…
The dinner is set to take place at Toyota’s auto museum. There, Monkey boy meets with Nilo G, who he’s hired to be his party planner, because he’s had “great experiences working with her in the past.” (He means she’s not a psychotic snatchface, and she doesn’t fight him on what kind of plates he wants to use). Nilo G is the crazy-named party planner that helped Marcel with the faux-biker wear party. Nilo, Marcel, and Robin are forced to cough up some scripted Toyota tag lines about innovation, futuristic design, and shit. So that will be the theme: the future. Nilo G mentions flying cars. I hope Mr. Spacely shows up and fires them all. Marcel wants to check out the kitchen they’ll be using, and Nilo breaks the SHOCKING news that the kitchen is yet another one of those makeshift deals, and it’s way the hell and gone on another floor, and they have to take a freight elevator to get there. Monkey boy says what we’ve all been thinking since the first episode, “Of course it is. Why would it be, like, right over there??” The “kitchen” has an ice machine, an industrial size coffee maker, and a microwave. Marcel says that logistically, the kitchen is a nightmare. So, it’s the same “hurdle” they face every week. Monkey boy will need stoves and burners brought in. Nilo G makes a face like that can never happen in the—wait for it—standard 48 hours they have to prepare. Christ, this show.
Brainstorming the menu:
Waiting on the Detroit version of the Slacker Couch with the rest of the crew is Sally, the Vulkan pastry chef. She helped out with the engagement party dinner. Marcel reiterates the theme of “honoring the future of design of the automotive industry”, and then suggests they work backwards and brainstorm the dessert first. Sally suggests snow (because it’s colder than a Wiccan’s fun bag outside) and maybe a tire peeling out. Jarrid brings back the chocolate car idea. Sally builds on it, suggesting different chocolate textures, like dirt? Gravel? Marcel loves the textured chocolate idea.
Of course you do. It is only logical.
There must be a meat course. Marcel announces that “Duck is totally under-used these days.” Yeah, I think that every time I go into the kitchen. “There’s also this avant-garde method of preparing duck called ‘cryo rendering’,” he enthuses. He’s never used the technique before, and, as usual, he wants to use paying customers as his gastronomic guinea pigs. There will also be gnocchi.
How about a fish dish? “Easy,” Jarrid says. “We need a fish that sounds fast.” Since there isn’t a fish named Toyota (yet), they settle on using a flat fish from the English Channel called a turbot (pronounced “turbo”). For the appetizer, Marcel wants to do his own take on deep dish pizza. Because what student doesn’t love pizza?
Prep Day 1
Chocolate Track and Tire: Monkey boy checks in with Sally the Vulkan, who is trying to create flexible chocolate “rubber” to form into a tire. Sally’s idea was to have a tire made of chocolate ganache that looks like it’s leaving tread marks in chocolate sauce and driving into some snow. Marcel butts in and says it makes more sense to have the tire lying on its side, so they can stuff it with delicious goodies. Then how’s it supposed to be making tracks, dill hole?
Deep Dish Pizza: Marcel wants to make a single-bite pizza, and, for the crust, he’ll use “air bread”. You know when a bubble of steam forms in your pizza crust, and you get a thin dome of baked crust surrounding a pocket of air? Well, when you make that happen on purpose, that’s air bread. Monkey boy laments that he has none of his regular tools, or a real pizza oven, and that he has to make 30 air bread pockets that he can stuff with tomatoes, basil, and cheese. It looks like he rolls out pizza dough, cuts individual squares, and basically puts two squares together to form ravioli. He puts one into the bottom of an oven and prays that it puffs up. Meanwhile, Jarrid shows up, and, after Marcel delivers some Toyota-scripted lines about innovation, he says that since the bread is “airy”, he wants Jarrid to figure out an “airy” way to serve it. Jarrid Quantum Interviews that, on top of everything else, Marcel wants him to make food levitate. “Everything else”? What else are doing, you greaseball?
Prep Day Two:
Somehow it’s prep day two already. So, they blew a whole day making air bread and pouring some chocolate into a pan? On Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen, time management skills seem to be a large part of producing food. But I guess maybe that’s only for non SyFy shows. In the real world, I guess you just fuck around and let the editing make it look like your food actually got cooked.
Devon says “Oh! We’ve got the tasting today! [bleep]”. As per QK formula, they don’t think they’ll be ready.
Chocolate Track and Tire: Sally and Marcel are still messing with the chocolate tire. It looks like the ganache has set up in a pan, and they’re trying to slice it and form it into a round tire shape. The problem is that it’s too squishy and won’t hold any kind of shape. Temperature is also a problem: it starts getting melty if it sits on a plate too long. Vulcan Sally doesn’t want to add more gelatin, because it might come out “funky.”
Give them a bowl of chocolate pudding. Write “Goodyear” on top in Cool Whip. And, done!
As they continue to work in the make-shift kitchen, a device flies into the room and hovers at the end of a work table. Everybody’s freaked out and Marcel wonders if it’s part of Toyota’s Skynet security system. Nope, it’s just that wacky Jarrid. He found the hovercraft at Sharper Image or somewhere, and he’s flying it with something that looks like a big PDA. This is his idea for making the pizza fly. Maybe they could put a pizza box on top of the hovercraft, and fly it out to the guests. Monkey boy loves gadgets, so Jarrid is now his straight boy crush. Won’t Devon be pissed!
Cryo-Seared Duck with Gnocchi: Monkey boy educates us that cryo-searing is a cutting-edge method of preparing poultry. First they’re going to prick the duck with dog brushes, to help drain the fat. Then, they freeze the fat on an anti-griddle, which is like a stone griddle, except it’s cold. Finally, the duck will be seared on a hot stovetop. The process should render out all the fat and leave nice, crispy skin on the outside of the duck.
Stop squirming, Fluffy! You‘ve needed a good brushing since Spring.
Devon is on K.P. duty, peeling potatoes to make a puree. Marcel explains how they’re going to transform traditional Italian gnocchi into something unrecognizable and (SPOILER ALERT!) possibly inedible. After they boil the potatoes, they combine them with sodium alginate (a thickening agent) and olive oil, then they whip it up to aerate the mixture, to form the puree. Next, they squirt the puree into a calcium chloride bath, and snip it into individual gnocchi-sized pieces. The sodium alginate in the potato puree reacts with the calcium to create a “membrane” around the gnocchi, with a liquid center. Marcel calls this “sphererification”. He’s used this technique in past episodes. It was gross then. It still is.
Don't squeeze it. You'll make it worse.
Marcel and Devon remind each other that timing is everything when making gnocchi. You can’t make them ahead of time, because they turn into “pellets”. They’ve got to be made fresh and served promptly. So, they’re the perfect thing to make on-site and try to serve in the unpredictable venue of a televised party.
At this point, Nilo G checks in, and Marcel and Jarrid spring the hovercraft idea on her. Nilo may be unusually chill compared with all the other batshit party planners Monkey boy has worked with, but she knows her role: serve as a human hurdle between Marcel and his scientific wild-ass food dreams. She pulls a “not on my watch” face, and states that she’s not confident in the hovercraft idea. At all. She doesn’t want it to hit one of the 100,000 dollar cars in the museum, or hit a guest in the head and spill food on them. She suggests that they rehearse the pizza delivery by hovercraft bit in the space before trying it with customers. The boys are all like “O-kay, Mom!”, cause you know they pretty much planned on unpacking the hovercraft, putting the flame decals on the side, and flying the thing into the dinner.
Marcel reiterates, again, some more, that there is a sit down dinner, there is Toyota, everything is on the line, blah blah… I stop hearing someone’s voice after they repeat the same thing for the third time, which is why I always watch reality TV with my lap top running, so I can check for updates of my favorite Czech porn site. On the show, Marcel’s flunkies finally bust the turbot out of the ice chests. Food factoid: the turbot starts off round, then it flattens, and its eyes migrate to the top side as it matures. Fascinating, but how does it TASTE??
A lot better once it’s chopped up, formed into a patty, and doused in tartar sauce.
In an effort to keep a colorful, arty design theme going, Monkey boy plans to serve the Full-Spectrum Turbot on two plates. First a charger, which is filled with a shallow pool of milk, will be given to the guests along with bottles of food coloring. The guests are supposed to use the food coloring to make designs in the milk. Then the turbot comes out on its own clear glass plate, and that plate has glass marbles that are coated in soap attached to the bottom. The entrée plate is set down in the milk-filled charger, and the soap pushes the milk fat away to create a “spectrum of color” beneath the fish. Might turn out to be cool, but to be honest, I haven’t felt the need to combine arts and crafts with food since I stopped eating paste in kindergarten.
To quickly and precisely cut up the turbot so that each piece can be cooked on the bone (for extra flavor), Marcel and Jarrid are using a band saw. They didn’t have a pizza oven, but now they have a band saw?? (I know, I know. Who is John Gault?)
Commercial: Hey, Verizon 4G network? I don’t know Veatrice Henson, so I don’t really give a fuck if it’s her 100th birthday. Elderly people scare me. So, I’m not going to send her a text or a homemade video or a crudely CGIed talking dog. Even if you are making it free to do so. This is a really stupid promotion, and I hope you didn’t pay some smart-ass advertising agency too much money to come up with the idea.
The absolute best thing about commercial breaks during this episode is that every time the show comes back, Monkey boy explains how Toyota flew his whole crew out to Detroit, and basically gives Toyota a product-placement hand job. Good job, Marcel, you dirty whore.
Tasting of Doooooom (if you really use your imagination)
In a bit of manufactured drama that I have trouble believing anybody thought was going to be dramatic, Nick with No Last Name texts Marcel and says he can’t make the tasting, so he’s sending Andy, the “head of the Toyota brand”. Marcel acts like a cat that has just been moved to a new apartment: he wants to flee, but can’t decide which direction leads to safety. He picks up pots, puts them back down, spins to the left, fakes to the right, and winds up in the exact same place he started.
Andy shows up, and three things are apparent about him 1) He is roughly 10 feet tall, and no suit made by man will ever fit him properly, 2) Sally will be glad to see another Vulcan who has been as successful as her in completely purging his primitive emotions, and 3) He has no fucking clue why he’s here.
“This has fuck-all to do with branding.”
Marcel starts the tasting off right by calling Andy “Anthony”. He brings out the deep dish pizza, which now includes a “liquid mozzarella sphererification.” A few wrinkles of doubt crease Vulcan Andy’s forehead, and he takes a bite. Then he daintily chokes. Seems some of the powdered spice went right into his alveoli. Andy’s verdict: “It’s different. I… uh…wow.”
Oh, boy. Maybe the band-sawed flat fish can save the day. Andy: “I do have to say that I have a fish allergy.” I think they didn’t even bring the turbot near Andy. That was probably wise. Vulkan Sally brings out the chocolate tire desert. Andy’s doubt wrinkles reappear, and he QViews that it looked like a streak of mud. He suggests that if they make two streaks of mud, then it would be more apparent that they’re supposed to be tire tracks. He tastes it, and the producers coach him to pause and give Marcel a Meaningful Reality TV Show Look. Then, with a totally expressionless face, Andy says “That’s fantastic.” In another QView, Andy says that if Marcel thinks he’s tough a tough crowd, wait until he gets upper management in the room, “because they’re gonna be a lot harsher than I am.” Harsh? About catering? Maybe they’ll get an ED-209 to execute Marcel on the spot? Calm down, hyperbole boy.
"You are nothing without your liquid nitrogen. Nothing!"
Aaaaaand, we have now reached the part where Marcel tell us how screwed they are, and how they’re going to have to stay up all night to have a prayer at pulling this off. If you’ve seen this show, I know this is familiar to you. Because it’s happened at approximately minute 33 of each and every one of the six episodes. And, seeing as how we’ve never seen Monkey boy have to resort to ordering out for a stack of pizzas to feed the guests, it’s hard to feel any suspense.
Monkey boy and Nilo G are strategizing how to compensate for the kitchen being on another floor. Nilo suggests plating the food in the freight elevator, but there’s some concern because the elevator was “glitchy” yesterday. There’s a mechanic working on it, and he tells Marcel it will work fine. I don’t trust anyone wearing a tool belt. Comcast guys wear tool belts. And they always lie to me.
Marcel and Jarrid finally get around to testing the hovercraft that they hope will carry their deep dish pizza. The hovercraft will fly okay with an empty pizza box on it, but Jarrid can’t control it very well. It bounces off Marcel’s chest and flops to the floor. Then it bounces off some pillars. Jarrid seems to gain momentary control over the little aircraft, then it placidly floats over a balcony railing and out into an open space. It descends out of sight accompanied by SyFy’s version of the Bassoons of Buffoonery.
Negative on the flyby, Maverick. The pattern is full.
As the minutes dwindle down to party time, there is the usual scrambling, frantic food prep, bleeped out expletives from Marcel, and Robyn pausing to look cutely out from under her hair in case a camera might be on her.
Nilo G has had most of the classic cars moved out of the museum, put in some Lucite tables, and lit the whole place with neon blue club lighting. It’s cool, as long as you’re not epileptic.
The first dish is going to be the pizza, but in the freight elevator on the way up, Jarrid can’t get the hovercraft to link up with the flat-screen controller. There is momentary suspense, then he gets it working. Marcel goes out in front of the crowd, dorky and awkward as always, and stammers out some more product placement and how it relates to food. At one of the tables, Andy is wearing his “This still doesn’t have dick to do with branding” face. Marcel says that in the future, your pizza will be air delivered, and lo, Jarrid lands the hovercraft, bearing a serving of the deep dish pizza, right on Marcel’s upraised hand. Okay, that was kind of cool. But it went so smoothly that I think all the crashing supposedly just two hours before was fakery.
Woman in front: “Hovercraft really turn me on!”
Nilo G does look genuinely happy for them that they pulled it off, which is a nice change from all the previous severely cunty party planners (Chester, Carlton, and that mouthy bitch with the gold plates). The guests mostly rave about the hovercraft, instead of the dish, although Andy does say that Marcel moved the spice underneath the liquid mozzarella, so he enjoyed it this time.
Cryo-seared Duck with Gnocchi: Devon is plating the duck, and Marcel and an assistant are splooging the potato puree in the calcium bath. But there’s a problem. Yesterday, the bath was cold. Today, for some reason, they heated it, and Marcel thinks the calcium may have evaporated. They whip up new batches of both gnocchi and calcium bath, and try it cold, but the gnocchi pillows won’t form. They’re just coming out like “gelatinous muck”.
The guest have now been waiting for 30 minutes since the last course, and some of the young design students’ mothers are in the parking lot honking the horns of their minivans. Marcel has no choice but to serve his Duck ‘n Muck.
That white goo? It’s the Future of Gnocchi™.
The guests try to eat the duck and ignore the white goo, but they aren’t too happy. One guy sends it back. Nilo G carries the plate of Duck ‘n Muck up to Marcel. He snaps “okay” and stalks off. He knows he’s got to offer up some sort of explanation for the epic gnocchi fail. He goes out to the guests, and this is what he comes up with:
“I want to, uh, give you kind of an explanation of, uh, what you have before you. The “gnocchi” [he makes sarcastic finger quotes and giggles nervously] which kinda didn’t work out as planned… I mean, it worked out yesterday when we tested it, but as you guys probably know, sometimes your concept doesn’t, like, work out, like, as you planned. Anways, regardless, I hope you enjoy the rest of the dish… so, yeah. Any questions or…. comments? Thanks.”
Marcel in a QView: “That did not go so smoothly.” I’ll say, Monkey boy. Andy and Nick with No Last Name look like they’re ready to carve Marcel’s liver.
Full Spectrum Turbot: The guests receive their chargers of milk and squeeze bottles of food coloring. Marcel, who I’m surprised would want to appear in front of these people again after passing off that limp-dick gnocchi he passed off a few minutes ago, encourages them to make their own designs and says that when they next dish arrives “there will be a reaction.” None of the guests demand a further explanation of it, but I would have. What kind of reaction? Knee-jerk? Allergic? Nuclear?
The guests do seem to be having fun with the food coloring. Nick with No Last Name makes Marcel.
He got the hair right.
The turbot dishes come out, and as promised, the soapy balls (heh) cause a reaction and the food coloring in the milk swirls away. As with the deep dish pizza, the design students seem much more interested in the serving gimmick than they do in the food. Although no one is shown sending their fish back.
Remember spin art?
Chocolate Track and Tire
Marcel brings Vulkan Sally out to introduce/explain the dessert. While she rattles off the ingredients, most of the guest are completely ignoring her and shoveling chocolate into their pie holes. Either the dessert was irresistible, or nobody besides Top Chef judges really cares about having their food explained to them. Maybe it was a little of both. The tire track pattern they added to the chocolate smears probably saved this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen a tire here, after Marcel decided to have the wheel lying down. The dessert seems to be a hit.
Marcel hears "skid mark" and thinks "dessert".
Marcel QViews that this was the largest party his crew has done to date (I don’t know, the biker wear party looked way bigger) and he’s proud of them for having overcome so many (completely self-imposed) obstacles. Then, he has to get up and kiss a little more Toyota ass in front of the guests. I will say this: he thanks the guests and says that it’s been a pleasure to cook for them, and I think he’s being honest. He’s a stupid-haired ass, but he really does enjoy cooking for people.
And there you have the sixth and final episode of Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen. I’ve enjoyed snarking on Marcel the Turkey-haired Monkey Boy, and I want to thank all of you for reading and laughing with me. Now, I think I’m going to go find something to eat. Preferably something without espuma, sphererifications, or seaweed gelatin.