STYLE

Wylie Dufresne, TIFF's 'Food on Film' guest, not sure if resto WD-50 will reopen

05/11/2015 02:41 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Famed modernist chef Wylie Dufresne says he's "very sentimental" about WD-50, his innovative New York restaurant that closed in November due to a developer's plans to erect a new building.

He misses it "on a daily basis" but he's not sure if he'll ever reopen it at another location.

"I miss the space but I miss the people more than anything that were there. Luckily I still continue to work with some of them," he says in a telephone interview.

"I would love to continue opening restaurants and do more things. I can't say if you'll see WD-50 again, but I would like to say that you'll certainly see more restaurants from us; fingers crossed, knock on wood, all those wishful thinkings."

The James Beard Award-winning chef will be at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox on Wednesday for the "Food on Film" subscription series. He'll discuss his love of molecular gastronomy and the Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro post-apocalyptic 1991 French comedy "Delicatessen."

Dufresne, who is also chef and owner of Manhattan's Alder restaurant, ran WD-50 to much acclaim for 11 years. Its avant-garde menu earned it a place on S. Pellegrino's list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants for 2010 as well as a coveted star in Michelin's New York City guide.

The Providence, R.I., native studied at what's now known as the International Culinary Center in New York.

He says he got into modernist cuisine —using tools such as immersion circulators and liquid nitrogen to make unique dishes — because he was looking to continue his education about the science of food and "have a little bit of fun."

"People might say, 'Oh, modernist cuisine is about the foams or the gels or the this or the that,' but it's really about a deeper understanding of the ingredients, of the products, in an effort to understand what's happening when you cook," says Dufresne, who competed on "Iron Chef America" in 2006.

"There are a lot of things that go on in the cooking process and it turns out that science is very much a part of that, and within that there's a little bit of physics. There's certainly a little bit of biology but there's a ton of chemistry."

Canadian chefs he's looked up to over the years include Montreal's Normand Laprise.

"Normand was here when I was just getting started in cooking and got a three-star review in the New York Times," says Dufresne.

"He came and left but did amazing things here well before other people were doing it."

As Dufresne sees it, many of the tools and techniques used in modernist cooking are now commonplace, which he finds "exciting."

"I think one could only hope to have a positive impact on the industry, and if that means that we've somehow contributed to the body of work, then we've done our part," he says.

When it comes to the future of this style of cooking, it's "about education," he adds.

"It's about understanding how to cook better, so in that regard it's safe as a kitten."

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