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Wylie Dufresne has always had a unique point of view. The chef broke new ground 11 years ago when he opened WD-50 in a sketchy part of Manhattan's Lower East Side serving dishes like aerated foie gras puffs. He's been celebrated for his experimental cuisine ever since and went on to earn a Michelin star, a James Beard Award and a spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
WD-50 was one of America's first avant-garde restaurants and its closing marks a new era in the New York dining scene. On November 30th the restaurant shut its doors because a developer will construct a new building on the site. Dufresne has said he'd like to open in a new location but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
It's always heartbreaking when a beloved restaurant closes, even more so when it has pioneered a new vision of cooking. As the New York Times rightfully points out: "The shuttering of the WD-50 space — like the closing of El Bulli in Spain in 2011 — represents the loss of a history-making culinary laboratory.''
It's not a stretch to compare Dufresne to Ferran Adrià. After all, his imaginative cuisine was inspired by the great Spanish chef, as well as the work of The Roca Brothers, Heston Blumenthal and René Redzepi. Just like elBulli, WD-50 has had its fair share of disciples who've gone on to make great careers for themselves. Christina Tosi, Alex Stupak and Mario Carbone, all trained at WD-50.
Dufresne's crab roll with celery mayonnaise
The closing of WD-50 isn't just a loss for Dufresne. It's a loss for the city, adventurous diners and, most of all, for the chefs and cooks who revel in having a space in which to experiment and develop new forms of cuisine. One can't help but mourn the loss of this culinary paradise that will soon be replaced by a block of apartments.
The restaurant may be closed but it's legacy lives on through the cooks who worked there but also through Dufresne's pub-style restaurant Alder which opened last year in East Village. Dufresne's famous recipes like molecular crab rolls and langoustine and popcorn will live on in our kitchens.
As a homage to Dufresne's pioneering spirit, TIME magazine has announced it will publish a short film on the closing on WD-50 early next year. Below is a preview of the film which shows the final days at the restaurant.
Do you agree with TIME? Is the closing of WD-50 the end of New York's biggest culinary laboratory?