As the owner and chef of Manhattan’s wd~50, Wylie Dufresne is considered a pioneer in the art of molecular gastronomy, the combining of cooking with chemistry. The results are exciting, disorienting, and delicious. He has appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef multiple times, a contestant on Top Chef Masters, and Iron Chef. In 2007 Wylie was nominated as for Best Chef New York by the James Beard Foundation, despite having only sideburns. Recently, he took some time to discuss Cadbury Creme Eggs, cannibalism, and what he did with my keys.
Rumpus: It’s clear from the ways you experiment with food that you have a thirst for culinary exploration and understanding. What is the most important thing you’ve discovered as a result of experimentation?
Wylie: That I don’t know very much about cooking.
Rumpus: You received a B.A. in philosophy, but became a chef. Why did you make that transition, and did your family worry when you broke the news that you didn’t want to become a philosopher?
Wylie: I never intended to go into academia, but there is certainly still a lot of philosophizing going on. I think my family is OK with it.
Rumpus: Your dishes are often both thought-provoking and whimsical, including items such as an edible egg shell made from kaolin. What do you say to your detractors who claim egg shells are already edible?
Wylie: You’re the first to bring this to my attention. Eat as many real egg shells as you like, then come and try ours.
Rumpus: You use meat glue to combine animals in delicious ways nature never intended. Have you found other, non-food uses for meat glue?
Wylie: We have not explored non-food uses for meat glue, as of yet, but there are many.
Rumpus: I’ve found a couple already, but they would be inappropriate to mention. You’re no stranger to TV. Have you ever considered your own show?
Wylie: Yes, I have. I have some ideas. Are you interested?
Rumpus: I’m very interested! What are your ideas?
Wylie: I’m keeping them under my hat in case someone else gets there before me.
Rumpus: Good one. You tricked me. I had the pleasure of eating at your restaurant last year and I think I lost my keys there. Did you find them? The keychain is the foot of a rabbit.
Wylie: We did, and it tasted delicious.
Rumpus: Speaking of delicious, what are your thoughts on the Cadbury Creme Egg?
Wylie: I used to eat them all the time as a kid.
Rumpus: Why did you stop?
Wylie: They seem very sweet to me now, and there are other indulgences that precede Crème Eggs these days.
Rumpus: I’m a bit of an amateur scientist myself and I helped develop a dish called Lunchballz. Unfortunately, Lunchballz is on the brink of financial ruin and is looking for a buyer. Are you interested?
Wylie: No thank you. But I applaud your efforts and wish you the best of luck with your ballz.
Rumpus: We’re launching a nation-wide ad campaign. Would you be interested in being the spokesperson?
Wylie: No thanks, I’m flattered, but it’s hard enough being my own spokesperson!
Rumpus: If you ran out of ideas, and at the same time happened upon a fresh supply of human meat that no one would miss, what would you do?
Wylie: I’m not telling, yet.
Rumpus: As a pioneer in the field of molecular gastronomy, you often need to maintain privacy to protect your techniques? Without giving away too much, can you tell me if one of your techniques is sorcery?
Wylie: I made a deal with the devil, but the paperwork is endless.
Photo by Travis Huggett.