Wylie Dufresne Freezes Cookies, Prowls for Lamb Scraps

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WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne starts every day with a shake. Photo: Melissa Hom

WD-50 chef-owner and Top Chef Masters contestant Wylie Dufresne spends his days off at Trader Joe’s, shopping for groceries for his expectant wife, editor of Food Network Magazine Maile Carpenter. He plans date night based on recommendations from well-informed industry friends and fits in late-night sessions on his stationary bike. Sounds like a regular dad-to-be, down to the sympathy snacking: He likes to eat Carpenter’s chocolate-chip cookies right out of the freezer. “The chocolate chips get firmer, the butter gets chewier. It changes the texture for the better,” he explains. Read more about Dufresne’s dining quirks in this week’s New York Diet.

Saturday, July 18

11:50 a.m. I had five Tristar strawberries at the Greenmarket from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm. Delicious. I was picking stuff up for work, waiting for a cab, noshing on some strawberries.

Then I went to the FCI to pick something up.

12:07 p.m. I had a pear, almond, and caramel cupcake, courtesy of Pichet Ong, who was doing a demo there.

12:37 p.m. I had my normal, daily breakfast: a shake with peanut butter, banana, banana yogurt, and ice. I shop at Trader Joe’s, so I use Trader Joe’s nonfat banana yogurt. Then I have a serving of Catie’s Organic Greens; I don’t know if supplement is the right word, but I just dissolve it in a little bit of water. One tablespoon is basically equivalent to seven servings of green vegetables, in a form that your body can absorb relatively easily. My father’s been preaching vitamins my whole life, so I take a lot of vitamins. I also take a fish-oil supplement. The shake gets me going. I’ve been taking that for breakfast for years.

2:39 p.m. I had [pastry chef] Alex Stupak’s new strawberry dessert. It was a banana custard with verbena foam, buckwheat, and strawberries. Super-tasty. He put it on the menu that night.

4:29 p.m. I had another one of our new dishes: a scrambled-egg ravioli. The wrapper is made of egg yolk, not pasta, and the inside is creamy scrambled eggs. I was making them, and every now and then you have to eat one just to make sure they’re okay. That sort of segued right into staff meal.

4:35 p.m. Our staff meals here are always really good. We’re certainly not the only restaurant to believe in the virtue of the staff meal, but we take it pretty seriously here. That day we had fried chicken, potato salad, corn from the Greenmarket, and peach cobbler with peaches from the Greenmarket. It was kind of funny because the assistant pastry chef had been working on a vegan brownie that he wanted us to try. Alex let him make a vegan brownie, then topped it with a ganache and whipped cream.

The other thing I eat a lot of is crudités. They always put a pint container’s worth of raw carrots, celery, cucumber, and red peppers aside for me when they put up staff meal; that’s what I nibble on throughout the day. I love raw carrots and celery. Then we got into service.

6:52 p.m. I had a couple of petits fours. Alex makes two kinds. The one I had was like those little ice-cream things coated in chocolate you get at the movies, Dibs. He makes a much-improved version of that, with almost-browned Oreo cookies on the outside, milk ice cream in the center.

7:15 p.m. I ate some soft chocolate off of the pastry station. As is often the case, cooks have a tendency to graze, especially during service, and I was wandering around, marauding in Alex’s area. He will testify to the fact that I eat a lot of those Dibs. I think it might be the heat [in the kitchen]. It’s nice to pop one little bite of something ice-cold into your mouth.

11 p.m. I had half a cup of cashews. Cashews are my favorite nut.

12:13 a.m. I finished the last of the crudités I started six hours earlier. Oftentimes after work, I’ll go home and work out. I have a stationary bike at home, so it usually starts with riding the bike for anywhere from five minutes to half an hour. I like to jump rope. I’ve got sort of all the amenities a small, home gym could need. I’m nursing a hamstring injury right now, so it has to be fairly low impact. I pulled both my hamstrings last summer, playing softball, and re-aggravated the left one about a month ago. I like to be active, and I have a hard time waking up and working out, so it’s easier for me to work out after service because I’m awake anyway. I don’t really go to bed before 3:30 a.m., so if I get home at 1:30 a.m., that’s a good use of my time.

4:32 a.m. I had a cup of nonfat cottage cheese, which is often how I go to bed. I read a while back that that’s a good way to put yourself to sleep, so I don’t know if it’s affecting my dreams in one way or another, but I sleep soundly, which is a nice thing. I’ve seen no negative side effects, so I’m going to go with it for the time being. Then I went to bed because it was 4:30 in the morning.

Sunday, July 19
10:30 a.m. I woke up at about 10:30, but I don’t usually start eating until I get to work.

1:06 p.m. But on my way to work, I stopped off at Milk Bar and had a slice of blueberry pie and a coffee milk. Their coffee milk is unbelievable. In Rhode Island, coffee milk is sort of the unofficial drink. As a very little kid, I loved coffee milk in Rhode Island, but then I grew up in Manhattan.

1:33 p.m. I got to work, and I had another shake and green supplement.

4:15 p.m. I had a piece of garlic bread because I was showing one of our externs how to make garlic bread. I love garlic bread. We roast off several heads of garlic in foil and then put that through the food mill and blend it with some raw parsley and some butter. You get this really bright-green spread. We get some white hero rolls down the street, slice them lengthwise, toast them really well, spread the garlic butter on, hit them with some Parmesan cheese, and put them back in the toaster and get them nice and golden brown with melted cheese. I think it’s some of the best garlic bread you can have, as is evidenced by the fact that when staff meal was served, I had two more pieces.

4:35 p.m. We had spaghetti and meatballs that day. Jon Bignelli, the chef de cuisine, made some delicious meatballs. I think that day he used lamb. We generate a decent amount of lamb scraps, so we like to recycle it in things like staff meal or sauces. I had spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and, of course, I had some more crudités.

7:45 p.m. I had yet another one of Alex’s mignardises. This one was the cocoa packet, which is kind of fun. It looks like a tiny little envelope but brown because it’s made of cocoa, and you eat it. I don’t want to say it feels like plastic, because that doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t feel like something that would be edible, and you can chew it, and it has this delicious texture and flavor. It’s got some surprise and whimsy in it, a perfect summation of the WD-50 way — something so simple can be so technically thoughtful and can also put a smile on your face. I think they’re just so clever.

8:05 p.m. I had two pieces of American cheese. I’m sort of surprised I made it this long this week without breaking down and having some. It’s my guilty pleasure, my kryptonite, American cheese. If someone pulls some out for making mac ’n’ cheese for staff meal, or if a customer orders it for a kid, I walk by and I gotta pop a slice in my mouth. I am powerless against it.

8:15 p.m. I get in the spirit of marauding around. I was in the meat station, talking to Jon, and there was Wagyu skirt-steak scraps on his cutting board, and I popped a few in my mouth.

10:15 p.m. I had some of my crudités.

10:30 p.m. I will confess to having had one last piece of cold fried chicken from the staff meal the day before, because I think everyone will admit to cold fried chicken being delicious. I went home and worked out again.

2:30 a.m. I had another cup of nonfat cottage cheese and went to bed. I live half a block from Trader Joe’s, so a lot of my staples come from Trader Joe’s. And they do a pretty good job with stuff. Sometimes when you take the fun — i.e., the fat — out of things, it can be unpleasant or weird textures or seem artificial. These are still pretty good.

Monday, July 20
Monday, Tuesday are a bit erratic because those are the days we’re closed. I don’t always eat, as my wife will point out, on my days off. Which might sound strange, particularly for a chef, but sometimes Monday is spent charging the battery.

I go to physical therapy Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays because I said I have hamstring injuries. So Monday I went to therapy at noon.

1:17 p.m. I had a Trader Joe’s blueberry bar because I could hear my wife’s voice in my ear, saying “make sure you eat something.” This is going to sound like an infomercial for Trader Joe’s. It’s like a Fig Newton but with blueberry instead, and they’re really good. I buy them, and I throw them in the fridge or the freezer, so it gives them even more texture. As the center gets cold, it gets chewier, and so it really has nice texture. So then of course the next entry is another Trader Joe’s product.

3:38 p.m. I had a bowl of cereal and a serving of the greens. The ginger, almond, and cashew granola is my favorite cereal right now. I stumbled across it recently by mistake. I was shopping, and the wife had a particular cereal that she wanted on the grocery list. I was actually looking for her favorite, but as soon as I saw they had something with cashew, I grabbed it. I go every couple Mondays or Tuesdays to buy supplies for the home. My wife’s pregnant, so she can’t lug too much heavy stuff. I just realized, actually, we have five boxes of this cereal in our cupboard now, which is probably a little excessive, but I love it. Then, it being Monday, I took a nap, which was nice, and I didn’t eat again until that evening, when I went to DBGB with my wife for dinner.

9:50 p.m. We started eating at DBGB, just the two of us. We had the Beaujolais sausage and the blood sausage with mashed potatoes and scallions, which I think has got to be one of the best things I’ve had in a while. They have three burgers. My wife is a fan of the Piggy, but we went for the Yankee because we had some sausage to start.

10:42 p.m. We had dessert. I had a coffee-caramel sundae that was delicious. That being Monday and having had a fairly large dinner, I did not work out that night. Went to bed.

Tuesday, July 21
1:32 p.m. Woke up, had another bowl of cereal and a green supplement. And again, this is going to be horrible, people are going to wonder what’s wrong with me. I didn’t eat anything all day after that.

5:02 p.m. I went to Terroir with Jon, our chef de cuisine. It’s the summer of Riesling at Terroir, and between 5 and 6 p.m they have certain ones for $6 a glass. I had two glasses. There were no snacks there, sadly.

8:29 p.m. Wife and I went to dinner at a restaurant called Kyo Ya I had been wanting to go to. I saw their spread in Art Culinaire this month, and George Mendes at Aldea said he had a great meal there. I would say I had one of the best dishes I’ve had all year there. Their eggplant-noodle dish blew me away. He shaved eggplant paper thin to resemble noodles. And I think he cooked it in a dashi broth. He cooled the whole thing down, so it was cold eggplant noodles, cold dashi, mixed scallions, and nori, and as you mix the whole thing together, it was really refreshing. Because of that transparency eggplant takes on when it cooks, it looked almost like rice noodles, or glass noodles. It was both visually striking and technically really interesting and delicious. It was everything that I look for in a dish. We had a great meal. The sashimi was lovely. Getting to meet the chef was a lot of fun. We sat right in front of him. The opportunity to have dinner with my wife is always a treat, not something I get to do enough of. Then we came home.

3:28 a.m. I was watching TV on the couch, and I will confess to having two slices of Cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, July 22
1:05 p.m. You know the table I was lying on in the Last Supper book? That’s called the pass table, where the plates come and the staff picks them up and takes them out. It’s right in the entryway to the kitchen. I came to work, and on the pass were a bunch of fried dumplings from Dumpling House, so I grabbed a couple pot stickers and popped them in my mouth. I’m still not sure who went to Dumpling House, but it was nice to see some dumplings. It’s just nice when people do that in restaurants. Someone will have a craving and will get enough for everybody

1:25 p.m. I had a shake and another green supplement.

2:48 p.m. I had two small handfuls of cashews.

3:25 p.m. I had a chocolate-chip cookie that my wife sent me off to work with. It is without a doubt the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world. I’m not saying that because she’s my wife. I’m saying that because it’s true. They’re sort of in between chewy and crunchy, which is what I like about them. They have nooks and crannies, almost like the texture of a toasted Thomas’ English muffin. I also think freezing them changes the texture in a good way. The chocolate chips get firmer, the butter gets chewier.

3:32 p.m. I had two slices of American cheese.

4:45 p.m. I had staff meal. It was barbecued chicken, peas, and bacon. Alex made zucchini bread. We had some mac ’n’ cheese and, of course, some crudités. Pretty tasty.

8:23 p.m. I had some lamb scraps off of Jon’s cutting board. We recently got this lamb from D’Artagnan that I think is really special. Some of the best lamb I’ve had in recent memory. It’s domestic, but it’s just really good. We put it on the menu about a month ago.

9:10 p.m. I was still working on a piece of barbecued chicken.

10 p.m. We have a dish on the menu that’s cold fried chicken, so I had a piece, just to make sure it was up to par. Upon reflection, I eat a lot of chicken. Eggs, unapologetically.

11 p.m. I had another shake. I was going to go home and work out, but my leg was kind of sore by the time I got home, so I opted not to. Then, because I wasn’t going to work out, I opted for another chocolate-chip cookie. Incidentally, my freezer is full of ice packs and, conveniently, next to all the ice packs are the chocolate-chip cookies.

Thursday, July 23
Noon: All I had was a shake and another thing of greens.

For staff meal, we’re having curried pork and Israeli couscous.