The Usual

May 3, 2012

Wylie Dufresne is the undisputed king of avant-garde molecular gastronomy. WD-50, his nine year old restaurant in New York, only accepts reservations 30 days in advance, his menu is a work of art straight from The Jetson’s, and people travel from far and wide just to taste his Eggs Benedict.

But here’s where he starts to inspire me like crazy, and not just about what to do with my groceries! He’s switching up his entire menu. Good-bye Eggs Benedict and every other famous meal his fans adore. That’s so bold! Also, incredibly risky! I really enjoy stories where the main characters take a giant leap into the unknown, don’t you?

There’s been a mix of outraged and excited reviews. Consistency is one of the key factors in a restaurant’s success. Customers get mad enough when their usual tastes a little…unusual, right? But what about a completely new menu? What would your reaction be if your favorite restaurant made such a drastic move? I’m wondering what you think.

P.S. — The photos, taken by Todd Heisler for The New York Times, show one of Mr. Dufresne’s new dishes called TV Dinner, made of duck egg yolk bathed in amaro, and chicken confit. The peas are tiny balls of carrot that have been rolled in green-pea powder. Have you ever tasted a dish as adventurous as this?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anne May 3, 2012 at 5:41 am

Oh! elBulli and Ferran Adria come to my mind. Ferran Adria made the restaurant elBulli a world famous location, crowned with three Michelin-stars. He is one if not the pioneer of molecular cuisine. Winning prize after prize, taking all reservations for a season in one day, he closed his restaurant in 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ElBulli
A cook or entrepreneur of such a reputation (Adria and Dufresne alike) will soon find his or her followers, regardless of new style or concept. So I guess we´ll have to watch out for what a creative mind like Dufresne comes up with.
Thumbs up, exciting!

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2 Gloria May 3, 2012 at 7:17 am

You really can’t ask a creative mind to create the same thing day after day and expect them to be happy about. I only HOPE that someday I can taste some adventurous dishes! (I love food!) For now I’ll have to settle for it being a minimum of thirty days in the future, but likely a lot more than that. Someday…

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3 Barchbo May 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

Exciting! I agree with Gloria – part of celebrating someone’s creativity is allowing and encouraging that to grow and stretch. Go, Wylie! An inspiration to all of us to keep things interesting, take chances, and create new things.

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4 simplyblythe May 3, 2012 at 8:45 am

i say we trust him and imagine he’ll be pleasing them all again with new creations.

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5 Anne M. May 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

I did have a favorite dish at a restaurant that they no longer carry so I don’t have the urge to go there anymore.

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6 Kelly May 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

Many of the restaurants where I live in the Pacific Northwest change their menus daily. Food is only served when it’s in season and the chef’s make up the menu based on what looked the best to them in terms of produce, locally raised meats, artisanal cheeses, wine, etc. That said, the general style and often flavor profile (e.g. types of spices, preferred cooking method, approaches to ingredients) of a restaurant are consistent enough to bring you back. So, I don’t think much of seeing an entirely new menu every time I dine out. It’s part of the fun – and next fall, when my favorite restaurant makes a variant on the corn fritters I had last fall, it will be a wonderful surprise!

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7 Mimi May 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

My favorite restaurant changes it’s menu seasonally to adapt to the varying availability of local resources. I think it is fantastic. I look forward to what that creative team can come up with and I love to try new things (especially food :) ).

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8 Summer May 3, 2012 at 10:57 am

Wow. Good for the owner and chef! How fun! You can eggs benedict anywhere, so why not try something crazy and creative?? I would love to try a sampling of his menu.

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9 Chrissy May 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

My favorite restaurant changes its menu, too. It keeps us wanting to return to see what new things are on the plate! If anyone is in the Knoxville, TN or East TN area, totally check out Bistro at the Bijou: http://www.thebistroatthebijou.com/

They keep a few of the more popular appetizers year round (like the pimento cheese fritters with pickles and jalapeno tomato jam – yum!).

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10 Kate The Great May 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I think it shows a confidence in the chef himself and not in the establishment as a whole. How many times do we go to a restaurant because we’re interested in the chef alone? We usually go to a restaurant to have an experience that’s created by the waiters, their service, the atmosphere, the decor AND the food.

Most of the time, the chef is an unknown entity and all we see is the menu. If the chef suddenly changes the whole menu, it draws attention to his skill and we go because we want to see what the chef has done.

Of course, this is coming from a girl who’s never been to a restaurant run by a famous chef. *shrug*

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11 Emjay May 8, 2012 at 11:18 am

One of the greatest meals of my life was at WD-50 eight to nine years ago, and I am due for a new memorable experience so I am excited about his plans.

But given that Ferran Adria actually closed El Bulli to experiment, I think that everyone in the molecular game has to go back and do the same. Totally agree with others that this shows major confidence and cojones.

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