We catch up with Wylie Dufresne – famed contemporist, kitchen alchemist and Chef / Restaurateur of WD-50, New York at the WD ~ Bentley showcase dinner. Wylie and Leigh talk knives, molecular cooking and team culture at the WD-50 kitchen.
LEIGH HUDSON: Wylie Dufresne is so hot right now on the international culinary scene. You originally studied philosophy but did you always imagine you’d be a great chef?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Yeah I studied philosophy… But I just wanted to find something I loved doing… Food is something I loved doing and I guess I just wanted to see how far I could go with it.
HUDSON: The dishes on the menu look pretty wow. Where does each dish start? Is it “Let’s do something with duck”, or “Do you think we can cook a duck with an argon laser”?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Well I don’t have a laser … We kinda work together as a team… see who’s got some good ideas…I mean there’s no guarantee that it will make it to the menu but it’s pretty much a team effort.
HUDSON: Apart from groovy facial hair, what are the minimum requirements to work in the WD-50 kitchen?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Well groovy facial hair will pretty much guarantee you a job ….
HUDSON: In Europe people will work months for free. Aren’t you looking for like minded people, people with passion, people with talent?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Well I don’t want “yes” men… I want people with talent but I guess it’s just best to bring them in and see what they’ve got.
HUDSON: You were trained in classical cuisine. What clicked and led you down the modernist MG path?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: I wanted to see know happens to food when I cook it, what happens to a chicken breast when it’s roasted… fish when it’s steamed, asparagus when it’s grilled… there’s a lot of misinformation out there…
HUDSON : Do you gain inspiration from ethnic cuisines?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Yeah ethnic cuisines … I suppose Japanese food but the problem with Japanese food is they don’t really share their secrets … you ask about a technique or an ingredient and they refer to it as some magic … it’s up to you to work it out.
HUDSON: All chefs love knives in a totally non freaky kind of way. Tell us about some of your knives?
WYLIE DUFRESNE: Well I have 5 yanagi, a few deba … a custom usuba and a Wusthof that I have sharpened so it behaves like a deba. I’ve got some carbon steel ones and some stainless ones…The carbon steel ones need extra work to look after but I realise that even the stainless ones need work to keep in top condition. I’m left handed so it kinda makes it hard and expensive to get left handed yanagi.
Yes it is hard to get left handed yanagi and deba. Less than 1% of Japanese blades are left handed and most are made to order.
Would you like to make your own sashimi?