Los Angeles Times

Athenaeum chef is sweet on Mars rover

In yet another breathtaking Caltech breakthrough, the world’s only edible Mars rover is on display at the Athenaeum this month.

The engineer overseeing the project is Athenaeum Executive Chef Kevin Isacsson, who has supervised the kitchen of the Caltech restaurant and inn for eight years.

The rover, in the Athenaeum lobby, features a base made largely of licorice and is otherwise composed mostly of gingerbread and candy. However, Isacsson allowed that “there is some Home Depot stuff in there,” as the rover required a strong wooden base and a few inedible rods.

Alluding to a famed NASA space shuttle, Isacsson said he was “challenged” to make the piece, topping last year’s gingerbread version of Santa’s Village.

Isacsson said it took about 10 days to complete the rover, and that engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the La Cañada Flintridge rocket lab overseen by Caltech, provided a model for Isacsson to study.

As can be expected, JPL engineers also gave his handiwork a detailed look.

Marisu Jimenez, general manager of the Athenaeum, said JPL engineers used the Athenaeum for a holiday party on Dec. 1, and they were quick to point out “technical deficiencies” in the gingerbread rover. It is not clear if the Santa Claus or Darth Vader figures, or the candy cane sticking out of the roof of the vehicle, were parts of the problem.

While the real rover Curiosity is on a two-year mission to study elements on the Red Planet — and may be on Mars forever — the gingerbread version won’t last so long. It’s gone after the holidays, Isacsson said.

“After a month [on display], nobody really wants to eat it,” he said. “It’ll go in the Dumpster or it’ll have ants all over it.”

[Editor's Note: An original version of this story incorrectly spelled Kevin Isacsson's last name wrong.]

-- Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News

Twitter: @bkisliuk

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