Have you heard of Wylie Dufresne? If not, it’s not because you have been living under a rock, that is not quite fair to say in this case.
Don’t get me wrong, he was a bad-ass for sure, but not a mainstream legend like the Gordon Ramsay’s of the world. He was quiet, and less in your face.
While his work was amazing, he did it for himself. In his corner of the culinary world, he worked as a craftsman. His intention was to skew our perception of food.
To give you an idea of this mutton-chopped man’s brilliance, he was once noted for making an octopus appetizer taste like a hotdog. For normal Chefs, that sort of result will get a bad review, but for him, the fact was, he could do that and make you like it.
You have paid $22 for the flavor profile of something you could get not too far from his NYC restaurant for less than $5.
Wylie was more than a Chef with crazy ideas. He was an explorer of new culinary territories. He would stick his flag in anything he thought was worthwhile.
Armed with his notebooks full of braindumps he had ideas like “make mayonnaise from hard-boiled eggs”. His process was test, iterate, and test again until he had something worth serving.
If NYC was earth, Wylie’s kitchen was a NASA test lab and he was out here exploring the moon.
Although it may seem like it, he was not an egotistical person. He would require his cooks to give opinions and test ideas as well. The limelight was not his, it was all about the entire kitchen pushing the limits
Wylie became well known for his second restaurant WD50. This place was met with lots of fan fair from foodies for his style of cooking. It was also met with very divided reviews from critics. They either hated it or they could not believe what they were eating.
To be fair to everyone involved, he was not serving food. He was serving science experiments masquerading as food.
But it did catch on.
For many years afterward, it was a haven for foodies and those that wanted to say they had been to his science lab.
Then, one day, a group of people decided they need to build an apartment building. In NYC it is hard to find vacant land, it is much easier to tear something down and build in its place a new building.
In 2014, the kitchen staff at WD50 fired and plated their last dish. A well-dressed server picked it up, slowly walked it to a table near the front of the restaurant, then delicately set it down.
Then that was it.
It was over.
After this, it was radio silence from Wylie.
Then, in 2016, a new Instagram account was made. It was called @dus_donuts.
This is what the mad-man in the kitchen is now doing. Beautiful donuts, with craft coffee.
Chefs are sentimental, they always relate things back to childhood. If you ask a chef what his favorite food is the answer is never “Pate”.
It will be something more along the lines of a food their parents gave them while they sat in the back of the station wagon on a long drive.
The Du’s Donuts website had this to say:
“Long before Wylie Dufresne was aerating foie gras in his New York City restaurants, wd~50 and Alder, he was running around his great-grandfather’s Rhode Island diner, living on a steady diet of American classics: Johnny cakes, chowder and coffee milk. Fast forward through a decorated culinary career that has been described as “ingenious,” full of “wizardry”, and “amazement,” and Dufresne is setting his mind to the singular item that shaped some of his earliest memories, and captures the heart of every type of eater the world over: the donut.”
This man that pushed the culinary world so far forward and ended up right back where he started. In his grandfathers living room, perfecting a sentimental food.
This makes us very happy.
I highly recommend you watch this video about the final days of WD50. See Wylie in action.