Treasured: Wylie Dufresne's Lost Knives
Originally published on Food and Wine, December 2013. Interview and photographs by Melanie Dunea.
Wylie Dufresne of New York's wd~50 and Alder: "When thinking about what I would reach for if something catastrophic were to happen, I initially thought of two knives I used for butchering fish, and carried around in my knife roll for 20 years until I lost them. One was a very generic Wüsthof knife given to me by a former prep cook, the other was a Japanese knife called a Deba that was a gift from a client. Fish butchering means a lot to me as a chef, I take pride in it and get a lot of joy from filleting fish, working with fish, breaking down fish, trying to understand fish. The knives were very cherished items. I've scoured both restaurants. I have no idea where the roll is! My fear is that one night I left it in a taxi while going back and forth from my restaurant Alder."
"I decided my second most treasured item had to be a cookbook. I have almost 1,500 in my collection. They are an important part of my development and a very valuable tool for the brain, for the mind, for the ideas and the inspiration and understanding of the people who came before me. I believe that chefs should read as many cookbooks as possible."
"Since I couldn't take every cookbook out of the office, I chose Jean-Georges Vongerichten's first, Simple Cuisine. When I was a younger cook, my dad took me to JoJo's and afterward I immediately went and bought this book.
To this day, I would say this book is a major reason for why we do what we do here in my restaurant and why we think the way we think. I give credit to my parents and credit to Jean-Georges for showing me the possibilities. I have almost memorized this book and have made most of these dishes. He's now my partner here and our relationship has gone through many levels. When I make food, still to this day, he is the primary inspiration."
"Junior, my head porter, who ironically is not junior in any way shape or form, is someone I treasure. If the idea was that you had to rebuild and start over, Junior is definitely the person that I would want to start over with."
"Junior eats, sleeps and breathes this place. He's now the head porter. He's our first line of defense before we have to call the plumber or the electrician. He receives all the goods that come into the restaurant and maintains the restaurant in terms of cleaning and putting everything away. He has four guys under his command. He is what keeps this place together while the sun is up. He is in charge. He's a treasure."