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The Method Behind a Chef's Madness

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.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

Videos
  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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