We’re thrilled to bring you our series, The Art of Plating, where we take you into the imaginations of chefs as they design and present their dishes. We show you how they do it, step-by-step, and let them explain their creative process in their own words—what’s going on in their heads as they put their food on the plate. This week: Wylie Dufresne, of wd-50, for over a decade one of the world’s true leaders in creative, boundary-pushing cuisine. Check back in through the week for more dish design from Chef Dufresne – Ed.
The Dish: Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, crispy potatoes, kindai kanpachi
I want our food to reflect our geography, where we live. Manhattan is a world with lots of sharp angles, lots of corners, clunky geometry...but also of trees growing in our sidewalks. There’s a man-made side and a natural side. Other than making everything look like it just fell off a tree, our food tries to be a reflection of our surroundings, both in its composition and its visual composition.
Mauro, a chef down the street from us at Falai, was doing a dish of scrambled egg ravioli. Wouldn’t it be cool to do a riff on that, with egg not just as the filling, but as the wrapper, too? (We’ve never shied away from breakfast as a 24-hour opportunity.)
Thinking again about food of New York, scrambled eggs and cured fish are classic. So we added the kanpachi, giving it a Japanese cure. Building off that, you need texture: eggs and crisp potatoes are old friends. Then we felt the dish had some room for fat, a creamy mouthfeel, and acidity. We’d been working with a puree of avocado, yogurt, mustard, and lemon juice for many years, and felt this was a great dish for it. So we have a dish of different layers of temperature, texture and taste. I try to make sure all my dishes have layers going through them.
What I like about this plate is that it’s actually a saucer; I bought the plates but not the cups. It gives us some real geometry: the outer circle of the plate and the inner circle of where the cup should sit. I’ve always been a fan of cartoonish, overly big shapes, like Mickey Mouse’s ears. It seemed to work nicely to have a big, almost cartoon-like green cylinder sitting on that circle.
Scrambled egg ravioli
This is really not unlike a proper French omelet—scrambled egg wrapped in egg. But “square omelets” just don’t sound as compelling as “scrambled egg ravioli.”
I like that it has a very square, solid shape, but when you break it open, there’s a sense of motion to the filling. It’s cooked, it doesn’t ooze, but it moves. And again, it’s got the big, overscaled shape going on.
So here’s a cylinder, a big cube, these reflections of our man-made sides, and the potato brunoise—a really precise knife-cut [a 1/8” dice – Ed.]—is also part of that. But how we’ve plated them, just spooned them on and let them fall, is a bit of a more organic presentation.
When I was working at JoJo, there was a dish that had these obscenely tiny brunoise potatoes, fried crisp, and laid out on the plate with a steak on top of it. It was so striking in its austerity, and I was inspired by that. It’s also kind of funny, because the process for making the raviolo is the part that took us a long time to develop, but people often look at this dish and say, “How did you get the potatoes that small?” That’s just practice with our knives. That’s the easy part!
So the way the potato falls all over the plate and the arrangement of this fish are nods to the natural world. We fold the slices of fish, and while you can’t see it from this top-down view of the dish, the bends of the fish look almost like waves, or like they’re jumping out of the water, going up the side of that man-made egg.
To be honest, it’s not that we necessarily think about all these things when we’re plating the food; some of this comes from having looked at it over and over again. This dish is close to four years old. I don’t always get this much time looking at my dishes, and there’s something wonderful about that. You can’t get too emotional about it because it goes away. But looking at it for a long time, you can start to see other things in it. I just talked trash about the bird’s-eye-view, but now that I’m looking at it, I can see another, larger square formed by the avocado cylinder, the egg, and the fish. Hey, that’s pretty cool!
TOMORROW: Chef Dufresne makes tire tracks out of sauce for sole and fried green tomato