wylie dufresne a simple feast

By Kate bolick '95 | Photos By Arthur Cohen

There are more than 20,000 restaurants in New York City. Rumor has it that, given the rate at which they open and close, you could spend a lifetime eating out three times a day and still not visit all of them. The likelihood that any new restaurant will survive is slim. The likelihood that a tiny restaurant with an unknown chef in an unfashionable neighborhood will survive is slimmer still.

And rave reviews from the city's most renowned restaurant critics? Dream on.

But Wylie Dufresne '92 has beaten the odds--and then some. Two years ago he opened his own restaurant, 71 Clinton Fresh Food. Before he could even finish tweaking the wine list, the reviewers began waxing enthusiastic. Five months later, New York magazine put him on the cover and named him one of the 10 best young chefs in town. Not long after, The New York Times commissioned him to write a series of food columns.

 at the end of the day it's only food, the former philosophy major said. You can't take it too seriously.

The rush of attention was truly unprecedented. "I don't think anyone has had the kind of success that Wylie Dufresne has had," said Gillian Duffy, food editor of New York magazine. "It's an entirely unique situation."

Not bad for a guy who once tended the salad bar at Dana.

New York City's Lower East Side is an unlikely spot for a fine-dining establishment. Crowded with bodegas and beauty parlors, store-front palm readers and 99-cent emporiums, the neighborhood, though vibrant, is hardly glamorous. But six days a week discerning New Yorkers take the F train to the Delancey stop, then turn and walk up Clinton Street. There they find a 30-seat restaurant so narrow that when a fire engine roars by it fills the entire front window.

Inside, the restaurant's one room is shadowy and serene. Tiny votive candles flicker on each small table, softening the clean lines of the modern decor. The waiters, all dressed in black, gather at the back beside a window through which the kitchen is visible, bright as a white dinner napkin. Every so often Dufresne, an unassuming fellow with wire-rimmed glasses and shoulder-length hair, appears briefly at the window to confer with a waiter, then retreats into the clamor of the kitchen. Spotless, gleaming, the kitchen has the focused intensity of a laboratory.

This is Dufresne's world, a newly named pinnacle in the mountain range of New York's finest restaurants. To those in the food business, his ascent has been unprecedented. For those who knew him in past lives, Dufresne's success is almost entirely unexpected. But not quite.



Diversity Call Renewed: Students, President Bro Adams, faculty and others join in effort to appreciate and accentuate differences.
Making Waves: An inside look at the news you love to hear--from Colbians.
A Simple Feast: Wylie Dufresne '92 is one of the hottest chefs in New York City.
President's Page: President Bro Adams on the court and affirmative action.
Commencement 2001
Alumni Reunion 2001

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