The Method Behind a Chef's Madness
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: Is there a method behind your madness when it comes to experimentation?
Wylie Dufresne: one of the things that we like to do, one of the formats that we play with a lot and I think successfully is, we will take something very familiar and serve it in an unfamiliar way. But then we will take things unfamiliar and serve them in familiar ways because I think taking something unfamiliar and serving it in an unfamiliar way is maybe... you run the risk of asking too much of people, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. But I still think, as a society... people are beginning to see that dining, eating can be an art form, but it’s not—it’s still not sky’s the limit, no holds barred all the time with eating as it is with other art forms like painting, sculpture. There it’s "Go wherever you want and we’ll decide there." But it’s still eating. People still... you have to eat, you don’t have to paint, you don’t have to do these other things.
And so I think there’s still a large number of people that eating is about sustenance and it’s not about a creative process or anything like that. So, that being said, we like to, I think, a very successful way of delivering food in the restaurant is something familiar like eggs benedict. We will take that apart and serve it to you in a way that does not resemble the eggs benedict of your childhood or of Sunday brunch or of whatever your particular memory of eggs benedict is, but when you eat it, you can still be transported; it's still all the flavors that, it still taps the memory of eggs benedict, but we serve it in an unfamiliar way. We break it down, we deep fry the Hollandaise, we poach an egg yolk and shape it, restructure it in another way, we do a lot of things, but when you eat it, you go" Ah, I’m still having eggs benedict." I can still—the taste is linked to memory and that usually makes—often makes for a successful dish. When you eat something and have it tap a memory, as long as that memory is positive, then you can... that’s a good for us to serve you.
But then if we take a combination of things, for instance, again, a dish that we’re going to put on the menu today is... it’s going to be veal brisket with honeydew melon, ricotta cheese, block olives, and green tomatoes. And those are flavors that probably don’t sound... they might sound disparate to some people. Why do I want olives with my melon? Why Ricotta and green tomatoes, well that doesn’t sound... to me that doesn’t sound crazy but there are elements to that dish that maybe don’t sound like they are going to go together, but we’re not going to present it in a very... We’re going to present it in a way that’s going to make it seem friendly, going to make you want to interact with it in a nice way. It’s gonna... it’s not going to be intimidating and I don’t... And again, I’m hesitant to use these words because I don’t want to challenge – sound like I’m challenging people. But I think, for instance, another dish that we do is, is we have a wall-eyed pike that we serve with mashed potatoes, yeast, zucchini, and nasturtiums. And again, mashed potatoes flavored with yeast is something that probably at first glance you’d think, they taste funky. They taste like they’re off. Because yeast has that, that funk, that yeastiness to it that is what makes beer so delicious and bread so wonderful. But it also is something that is approaching an off note.
But when you have a piece of fish with mashed potatoes and a vegetable and a sauce, then you’re using a framework that's familiar to people, but we’re delivering flavors that are a little unfamiliar, or a lot unfamiliar, but we’re presenting it in a way that is familiar. That people can sort of say, "Ah, okay, I can see my mashed potato pile, I see my fish, I see my pile of vegetables. Okay, I get it." And then as they begin to eat it, our hope is that someone would say, "Oh, wow! Yeast, that’s that never would have—I didn’t think of that." Or "Wow! Nasturtium, that’s interesting. I don’t even know what that is. And how did... what? I don’t understand how they cook this fish, but the texture is fabulous. And you know, some people don’t even notice that, but for those that do, we have found that those are successful ways of delivering food to people. Familiar things in unfamiliar ways. And unfamiliar things in familiar ways.
Recorded August 6, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Dufresne has two common approaches to dishes: familiar things in unfamiliar presentations and unfamiliar things in familiar presentations.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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