Scandinavian Cooking Is Hot
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: What country is the new culinary hot spot?
Wylie Dufresne: I would certainly say that Scandinavia is enjoying a well-deserved moment. There are many chefs in Scandinavia right now that are doing some very, very interesting things. Again, they’re introducing us, the world, the culinary world, to a whole new group of ingredients that we're unfamiliar with. They’re exposing us to an approach, to a style of cooking that I think is... has been around for a long time, but we’re seeing it come back into vogue. I think they’re doing some really good people, like René Redzepi, and Ulla Ruden, and Matthias Dahlgren and I mean the list goes on and on and on. There’s a tremendous number of people in Scandinavia that are doing fantastic, fantastic stuff over there.
And it’s good technique mixed with good ingredients mixed with a curiosity that’s yielding some delicious, fantastic food and I think that it’s really an exciting moment for that part of the world, and I think that that’s part of the natural sort of evolution of things. We get excited about one place and then we get excited about another place.
I also think Japan... I find Japan endlessly fascinating. Part of that is because they have been so, so good at keeping us out and not letting us in, but now they’ve really... there’s a push right now to get Japanese food and culture, certainly here in America, in Europe, but even in New York, there’s a lot of people that are saying, Japanese people that are saying, look at what we are doing. And it’s fascinating and it’s really interesting. I find the Japanese approach to cooking to be endlessly interesting. You know, we certainly haven’t heard the last of Spain and I don’t thing anyone should ever forget about France because France still has a pretty good track record.
Recorded August 6, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
There are some very interesting things coming out of the Nordic countries that could challenge the culinary hegemony of Spain and France.