Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Wylie Dufresne: I wanted to play a team sport without becoming an athlete.
AB: You got a Bachelor’s degree (at Colby) in philosophy before going to culinary school. How do your philosophy studies play into your work at wd-50? What is your philosophy on food?
WD: Philosophy is about being open-minded. We need to build on what has come before us, and I’ve learned new approaches to thinking and how to apply myself.
AB: After college you went to FCI. What are the advantages of attending culinary school? Would you recommend it to aspiring chefs today? What about experience abroad?
WD: The French Culinary Institute is 6 months of hands-on basic skills in the kitchen. But, a lot of the greatest and most significant chefs are self-taught. I don’t think there is a rulebook. It’s more individual.
AB: You are a Jean-Georges protégé – you worked at Jo Jo, Jean Georges and Prime in Las Vegas. Would you say he is your primary mentor?
WD: For the first part of my career, JGV was the most powerful influence. Now most of my influence comes from a desire to define my own personal style.
AB: What advice would you give to aspiring young chefs?
WD: Read everything you can get your hands on; learn everything you can.
AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
WD: What’s the last thing you read? Where was the last place you ate? How do you cook a steak? I want to hear confidence in a voice.
AB: What are your favorite cities for culinary travel? Why?
WD: San Sebastian. There’s a high concentration of people doing very interesting things, and it’s a beach.
AB: Where are your favorite restaurants to go in the city?
AB: What would be an ideal way to review a restaurant?
WD: I don’t think that one person should have that much say. One person can close a whole business. I think there should be a group of people; a team that reviews a restaurant over a period of time.