Last Thursday night I was fortunate enough to partake in a meal cooked by celebrity chef Wylie Dufresne, former head chef and owner of the world renowned molecular gastronomy restaurant WD~50 (named for his initials and the street address). WD~50 shuttered its kitchen last November, but Chef Wylie has stayed as busy as ever, and is now working with Strongbow Cider as a celebrity spokesman. For those of you bros that aren’t familiar with Wylie he’s won the James Beard Award for NYC’s Best Chef and he’s competed on both Iron Chef America (vs Mario Batali) and Bravo’s Top Chef Masters.
We sat down for a dinner crafted by the James Beard Award winning chef that consisted of elements either tangentially or directly related to Strongbow Cider, and before the meal I was able to grab Wylie for a few minutes to pick his brain about the field of molecular gastronomy, where in the hell I can buy turkey eggs (I’ve been the hunt for them for years), and what the best thing he’s ever eaten is.
Below I’ve pulled excerpts from our interview, and since I sincerely doubt you bros want to hear the audio I’ve transcribed it for you. If you really, really, desperately want to hear the audio then let me know in the comments and I’ll upload that for you. I’ve also grabbed some links for you bros interested in molecular gastronomy, so make sure to check out down below!
Cass: So what’s been keeping you excited these days about the field of molecular gastronomy?
Wylie: Well, we’re working on the cookbook that’s going to chronicle the history of WD~50. And we’re excited, we’re always excited to take the knowledge that we’ve gained over the last 22 years and try to figure out how to move forward with it.
— Cass Anderson (@casspa) November 13, 2015
Cass: How have you seen the field [molecular gastronomy] change as it’s gained popularity?
Wylie: I think our approach, and we’re not alone in that approach, nor were we the originators. We were probably first wave with a group of chefs all over the globe. And I think a lot of what we have become a part of has become integrated into the canon (of molecular gastronomy), it’s everywhere. It’s less show than we were back in the day, but we were first wave, and we’re probably in third wave now. It has always been focused on taste has always been tantamount. I just think that anytime anybody learns a new skill and they’re enthusiastic sometimes that can be in the forefront. And as you grow and become more mature you can figure out ways to weave things together a bit more maturely.
Cass: As farm-to-table takes off in America and everyone becomes more focused on sustainability how does the field of molecular gastronomy factor into all of that?
Wylie: It factors into it just fine. We were buying and have always been buying out food direct from the farmers. We’ve always sourced our food in the same places that any other people have. So I think that we are as much a part of the farm to table movement as anybody.
For us it’s never been so much ‘come to our restaurant because we have good ingredients’, it’s ‘come to our restaurant because WE ARE using good ingredients’. From our position it’s implicit in a way, we don’t necessarily stand up and say ‘we get this from Farmer Bob, and we get this from Fisherman Mary’, but WE DO buy from Farmer Bob and Fisherman Mary. We get behind our farmers as much as any private shop and we’ve been shopping at the farmer’s market in Unions Square for I think 24 years now. So I’ve been a part of it (farm-to-table) for a long, long time now.
Cass: Speaking of which, this is only related to your mention of the Union Square Farmer’s Market. I’ve been on the hunt for turkey eggs for nearly three years now. Ever since I read an article in Slate discussing how turkey egg omelettes used to be served at Delmonico’s steakhouse here in NYC back in the 19th century. From what I’ve gathered all of the turkey farmers keep these eggs for themselves, any advice on where I could find some of these to buy for myself?
Wylie: Yah, they’re definitely hard to find. The best advice I can give you is to talk to your local turkey farmer.
Cass: Lastly, this is an easy one, first thing to pop into your head: is there something in the last five years you’ve eaten that stands out as one of the greatest things you’ve ever had?
Wylie: And it wasn’t something I made? No, I mean I’m not real good with ‘the best this’ or ‘the best that’. Recently I went back to Marta for the first time in a while, and that might have to be it.
And that concluded the interview. You can seem some photos above of the decadent dishes we ate. Below are some tasting notes on the latest line of Strongbow Ciders, all of which we drank in mass quantities. I gotta say that the ginger was probably my favorite but that’s because I’m a sucker for all things ginger-flavored.
If you’re interested in the field of molecular gastronomy and want to learn more then I suggest checking out the two cookbooks I’ve listed below:
And if you’re a cider fan then check out the flavor profiles of the new Strongbow flavors, each of which has already won a tasting medal: