Words of Advice from – Wylie Dufresne

Widely regarded as one of the fore runners of the more avant garde type cooking in North America, Wylie Dufresne originally set out to study philosophy. He completed his BA in philosophy but some how ended up in kitchens. During the 90’s Wylie worked his way through the kitchens of Jean George Vongerichten. In 2003 he opened WD-50, named after his initials and the address of the restaurant, 50 Clinton Street Manhatten. We are genuinely thankful to Rachael from WD-50 & Wylie for doing the ‘5Questions’ for us.

1. What would be your best piece of advice for a fresh face school leaver who is obsessed with ‘Food Porn’ looking to get into the industry?

Take the slow road.  This was advice given to me early in my career by a chef who took the accelerated path and lived to regret it.  Learn all you can and learn it thoroughly.

2. What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff?

An open mind.  It goes without saying that one also looks for people who are willing to work hard, who are exited to learn and who are capable of thinking.

3. Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?

It’s not mandatory, but I think it is a good way to learn if you can afford to work for free.  I would also encourage them to read culinary books and to use the web.  To do a stage at wd~50 apply early and be flexible with your dates.

4. In light of the recent death of a young chef through excessive hours (on average 100+ per week, for multiple weeks – See our post), does the industry need to change & what changes have you made to reflect this in your own kitchens?

Nobody at wd~50 works 100 hours, I’m happy to say.  We’re always trying to build a better mousetrap in terms of making the work day more efficient, but you can’t skirt the fact that you will work long and hard in this industry.  We encourage cooks to work smarter, not merely harder, if you become more efficient you can arrive later as you will get your prep done more quickly.

5. Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?

Sometimes.  It would be nice if the media portrayed the difficulties and challenges with a little more candour.  Sometimes it does seem like it’s some sort of glamour job from TV shows.  The thing to remember is that all of the chefs with regular gigs on TV have put in hard time.  One should also remember that hard work and talent do not guarantee success, like any discipline there will always be talents that don’t make it, the forgotten artist, the neglected writer, etc.

For career opportunities with Wylie, contact him here;

WD-50, 50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002


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Many thanks to Wylie for doing the ’5 Questions’ for the Chef Hermes Blog, it is much appreciated and hopefully an insight for our more junior readers.

We may revisit the ‘5 Questions’ in the future, but this is all for now.

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