September 30, 2014 / 3:34 PM / 3 years ago

World Chefs: Dufresne prepares end of NYC modernist mecca

5 Min Read

Chef Wylie Dufresne is pictured in his New York City restaurant wd-50, in this 2012 handout photo courtesy of restaurant wd-50.Travis Huggett/wd-50/Handout via Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chef Wylie Dufresne is preparing to close his 11-year-old wd-50 restaurant, which has been a New York mecca for food enthusiasts to taste cutting-edge dishes.

Dufresne's inventive applications of molecular gastronomy, or techniques that can radically alter the appearance or texture of food, have influenced other chefs and helped transform the menus at other top restaurants. But the landlord's decision to tear down the building means the end of the pioneering restaurant.

Once wd-50 closes on Nov. 30, Dufresne will focus on Alder, a casual New York dining spot that he opened last year.

Dufresne, who was born in Providence, Rhode Island, spoke to Reuters about closing the restaurant and molecular gastronomy.

Q: How will you mark the restaurant's last day?

A: We haven’t decided yet. (We might) do something amazing in a big blowout or do something very simple and probably in some ways very unexpected. It’s an emotional day, and it’s an emotional decision.

Q: What has wd-50 meant to New York's food scene?

A: I hope we could be remembered as a place where you could get delicious food that made you think, that made you smile, that it was fun place to eat. There were things you couldn’t have anywhere else in the city possibly at its time. We have another restaurant. It’s not the end of our story.

Q: Do you see wd-50’s style of food and cooking techniques adopted by other chefs?

A: Adaptation is the greatest form of flattery. If we are doing things that are catching on and are becoming part of the technique other chefs in the city or around the world are using, that means we have succeeded and we are leaving a legacy.

Q: What is your definition of molecular gastronomy?

A: It is a field of scientific study, so it is not accurate to refer to it as a style of cooking. It’s like calling a style of cooking biology. It does a bit of disservice to refer to a cook as a molecular gastronomist just as to say a molecular gastronomist is a chef.

I’m not trained as a scientist or to perform my job as a scientist does. The work of a molecular gastronomist is of imminent interest to a chef. It helps us all to be better cooks. The foam and the gels might come and go ... but they are not the tenets of molecular gastronomy.

Q: Are there plans for another wd-50 in the future?

A: We are actively trying to find a new home. I have several ideas that I would like to explore. It’s not just another version of wd-50. That is compelling to me, but there are other ideas I would like to explore.

Squash-roasted peanut soup with bay scallops, fig "tobacco” (Serves 4)

Fig "tobacco" preparation (start at least two days prior):

30g chicory powder

70g dried fig

1g toasted anise seed

30g peanut butter

1 clove of garlic, sliced and toasted in oil

Blend everything in a food processor to grainy texture.

Place in dehydrator for 24-48 hours, until dry. Re-grind.

Soup:

325g roasted squash

150g vegetable stock or chicken stock

10g roasted garlic

180g pressure-cooked, roasted peanuts

300g squash juice

Salt to taste

Place ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth.

Strain through a chinois and season with salt.

Pressure-cooked peanuts:

200g roasted peanuts

1000g water

Place ingredients and a pinch of salt inside pressure cooker. Bring to pressure over high heat, then reduce to medium-high and maintain 10-15 lbs. pressure or a moderate, steady release of steam for 1.5 hours. Remove from heat. Wait 15-20 minutes and then release remaining pressure and carefully remove lid. Strain nuts and discard liquid.

Pickled bean sprouts:

100g bean sprouts, trimmed

150g water

100g vinegar

50g sugar

5g salt

Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil. Pour 100g of the resulting pickle over sliced bean sprouts. Allow to sit overnight.

Scallops:

225g bay scallops

Salt/cayenne

Bean sprouts

Peanut oil

Chopped peanuts

Season scallops lightly with salt and cayenne and place in a Ziploc bag. Remove as much air as possible and place in a controlled water bath and poach at 60 degrees Celsius for 8 minutes. Once cooked, remove scallops from the bag and toss lightly with peanut oil, sprouts and chopped nuts. Divide scallops among 4 bowls and ladle soup around. Dust bowls with tobacco and serve.

Editing by Patricia Reaney and Lisa Von Ahn

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