Gael Greene

Gael Greene goes deeper about her problems with Wylie Dufresne's cooking, and why the winning dish was so successful.

on Jun 20, 2009

Just read James Oseland’s blog and I see he is still upset that he couldn’t persuade Jay Rayner and me that Wyllie Dufresne should have won last week’s elimination round with his slightly witty, slightly wacky, treatise on which came first, chicken or the egg. I admire Oseland’s open mind about Wylie’s molecular cooking, James went from disdain if not horror to a consuming appreciation in a lightbulb moment.

As I said on the show, I love Wylie’s famously sloooow-cooked egg and was impressed that he came equipped to deliver it in the Top Chef kitchen. His breast of chicken was astonishingly moist and ethereal. I didn’t hate the banana mustard though I am growing increasingly bored with chefs’ modish twitches, skid marks on the plate being just one. But his little glob of coffee dusted granola was just plain weird. And the dish didn’t strike me as a soothing island feast for a gaggle of lost survivors a chef might do if he were washed up on the same island. Graham’s marvelous tuna trio seemed more teasing and tony than island survival to me too.

Actually I worried when I saw Wylie’s name on the Top Chef Masters lineup. Although I believe I was the first to rave about his splendid food at Clinton Fresh Foods after he left Jean-Georges’ kitchen, I’ve panned most everything he does since he moved on to chemistry at wd~50 – I never miss a chance to refer to it as WD40. Edamame ice cream, fried potato broth, deconstructed French onion soup. On a recent reviewing dinner with two die-hard Wylie fans, hoping I’d find more to love, I felt especially betrayed by cherry-covered chocolate – a rubbery artificial-tasting cherry girdle wrapped around a chocolate core, no match at all for an honest chocolate-covered cherry.

But Dufresne was a wonderful sport about our differences, at least on-air, and I never doubted I could be open to a revelation in whatever he sent out to the creators and writers of Lost and the judges in our leafy green island dining room.

In fact tony tuna and coffee-dusted granola started looking good when Suzanne Tracht’s bizarre hodgepodge of unlikely concoctions. all heaped together was set in front of me. Pasta and risotto? Boar and shrimp and yams underneath? What could she possibly have in mind? I wondered.

“Christmas dinner on the Island,” she said. And I looked again. It did look like a selection I might carry away from a holiday buffet.  Each item on the plate was perfectly cooked. Her boar was the best of the boars I’d tasted. And Suzanne might have won anyway for her seafood, sea urchin risotto. As I tweeted Thursday morning, professional foodies are fools for uni – that voluptuous texture, the sudden sense of sweetness as the briney scent of the sea fills your mouth. Tracht doesn’t smile much and didn’t leap the net when she won, but that lady is one serious sensualist. Sleeping off that feast might have created a lull in the island endless mayhem.

Gael Greene
http://www.insatiable-critic.com