“Farm to Table” Is False Advertising
Wylie Dufresne is the chef and owner of wd-50, a restaurant in Manhattan. Dufresne is a leading American proponent of molecular gastronomy, the movement to incorporate science and new techniques in the preparation and presentation of food.
Born in Providence, R.I. in 1970, Dufresne graduated from The French Culinary Institute in New York and also completed a B.A. in philosophy at Colby College. From 1994 through 1999, he worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, where he was eventually named sous chef at Vongerichten's eponymous Jean Georges. In 1999, he left to become the first chef at 71 Clinton Fresh Food. In April 2003, he opened wd~50 (named for the chef's initials and the street address) in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Dufresne was a James Beard Foundation nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2000 and chosen the same year by New York Magazine for their New York Awards. Food & Wine magazine named him one of 2001 America's Ten Best Chefs award and, in 2006, New York Magazine's Adam Platt placed wd-50 fourth in his list of New York's 101 best restaurants. He was awarded a star in Michelin's New York City Guide, from 2006 through 2010, and was nominated for Best Chef New York by the James Beard Foundation. wd-50 has also been recognized as one of the Top 10 Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants in the U.S. by GAYOT.com.
Question: How does a trend, like the recent craze for pork belly, begin and spread?
Wylie Dufresne: I mean, that’s a funny question or interesting question because it’s not as if suddenly 10 years ago pigs started having bellies and prior to that they didn’t have bellies and nobody ate them because you know we’ve been enjoying pigs and all of is parts for a long time. I mean bacon is not a new idea. And bacon has been beloved for as long as I can remember bacon.
But I think that, you know, trends come and go and we’re not gonna... we’re dealing with more or less a finite number of ingredients. We aren’t creating really with any sort of regularity, new foods to work with. And I think that as chefs, we kind of work our way around an animal and how and why suddenly you see pork belly on everyone’s menu, I can’t exactly explain other than it tastes good. But... or why it might be lamb spareribs the next month, or it might be duck tongues after that. And then we go back to veal sweetbreads or something. I think that a curious cook or a thoughtful cook is always sort of moving around and as economics become an issue, we look for cheaper, more affordable cuts that still offer a lot of flavor. And I think that there are also people... you know, there’s a trickle-down. There’s people looking for the—I don’t want to say the "new cut" because again, the animal has had that muscular structure for its whole life, but if we can sort of... with the help of our butchers look at the animal and think of a different way to form it or a different way to carve that bit out and use it, you will see that trickle down. I mean, you know TGI Friday’s now does, you know, flat iron beef. And that’s not something that you would have seen at TGI Friday’s if you know, chefs like myself hadn’t started using it as a delicious, cheap cut from the shoulder, you know, five, six, seven, years ago, but now it’s on TGI Friday’s menu. That’s part of the trickle down and that’s how it finds its way all over the place.
But I think again, that thoughtful cooks are looking at exploring the whole animal and so we move around and you use a cut for a while and you get tired of it, so you move to another cut. Why pork belly was so hot? You know, that’s a fair question I can’t answer, but I was probably as guilty as anyone else of cooking a lot of pork belly, you know, five, six years ago because I thought it was delicious. And for me, it was about how can we cook it in a different way that it hasn’t been cooked prior, or what techniques, modern techniques can we apply to it.
You know, we might get excited in a restaurant about an ingredient that’s new, but it’s new insofar as it’s new to us. It’s not a new ingredient; it didn’t just drop out of the sky. But it’s new to us so we get excited about it and so we work with it and try to put it through its paces and learn about it and understand it and then use it. And sometimes it does... another chef might get wind of it and—boom, boom, boom, boom—and there it goes.
Or we might... or I might hear from a friend, “Oh, check out the crab tails. These are pretty cool.” And you say, “Well what the hell’s a crab tail? I’ve never seen a crab tail?” And it’s not really the tail, but it’s this piece of meat that’s really interesting. And you know, unfortunately that was not something that found widespread appeal, but it was a really delicious piece of meat.
Question: Are there any food trends that you find uninspiring?
Wylie Dufresne: You know, I think "uninspiring" is a little harsh. I don’t, I don’t take maybe as negative a stance as that. But I think things like like “farm to table” are misleading. I think sometimes that becomes a pedestal or a soap box to get people into your restaurant, but is not... it’s almost empty in a way. I mean, my food comes from a farm and I serve it on a table.
You know, it’s not as if, what they’re trying to say is that not much is being done to it. But it’s not, it’s not to say... I think to use “farm to table” to imply that there’s something, that that equals quality is misleading because I think that if you need... there’s something wrong with needing to say, “Hey, we use good ingredients.” Because any chef—it should be understood that when you go to a restaurant of a certain caliber, it should be expected that chef X is using good ingredients. It should be a sounding board. “Hey, come here, we use good ingredients.” Well, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. “Come here, we use mediocre ingredients, but it’s cheaper.” Like that’s nuts!
I think you have a right as a diner to expect when you come to my restaurant that I’m using good ingredients, responsibly sourced. If you want to ask me about them, I’m happy to tell you, but the notion that “farm to table” somehow signifies I’m shopping well, or "responsibly," I think is unfair. Is almost... it’s like smoke and mirrors for the diner. It’s like false advertising because I’m at the green market every week buying things. And I have been, but I don’t stand up on it and say “Hey, come see really good vegetables at wd-50 because you should assume that we are using really good vegetables. So I think sometimes that notion is a little bit of a misnomer.
Recorded August 6, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
There’s something amiss if restaurants have to announce that they use good quality ingredients; that should be a given, says Dufresne.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
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Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
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