The Traveling Chef: Seeking Inspiration and Innovation from Home and Abroad
The top chefs in history can best be described as experimenters, knowledge seekers, and creative geniuses. Given these qualities, it is only natural that they have an insatiable appetite for travel. Forever seeking new inspirations, they travel to learn the foundations of flavor and tradition.
Join renowned chefs Wylie Dufresne (wd-50, Alder), Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in Gotham West, New York and Tokyo), and Richard Kuo (Pearl & Ash) as they discuss their journeys and food evolution, and also whet appetites for global cuisine. The conversation will be moderated by Anne McBride (Director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University, and Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at the Culinary Institute of America).
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Wylie Dufresne was born in 1970 in Providence, Rhode Island moving to New York in 1977. In 1992 he completed a B.A. in philosophy at Colby College, Maine.
After college, Wylie enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York and was then employed in various Jean-Georges restaurants from 1993 until 1999. In 1999 he became the first chef at 71 Clinton Fresh Food.
Dufresne opened wd~50 in April of 2003.
Frank Bruni of the New York Times awarded wd~50 three stars in March of 2008. In 2006 wd~50 received one star from the Michelin Guide, which it has retained in each subsequent year.
Wylie has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards, including “Best Chef New York” for seven consecutive years, winning the award in 2013.
Alder, Dufresne’s second restaurant, opened in Manhattan’s East Village in March 2013.
Ivan Orkin was born on Long Island NY in 1963 to Louise and Leonard Orkin. His mother’s notorious lack of skills in the kitchen and his father’s incredible work ethic helped shape him into the man he is today.
A dishwashing job at a sushi bar in Syosset, Long Island when Ivan was 15 opened his mind to a new culture and cuisine that he simply could not stop thinking about.
After graduating from high school, Ivan decided to major in Japanese language and literature in college. He then moved to Japan to teach English in the country he would one day call home. Eventually, Ivan returned to the United States, married a woman he met while in Japan, and decided to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Ivan then spent years in NYC cooking everything except Japanese food. Stints at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Judson Grill, and the NYC French Stalwart Lutece honed his understanding of hospitality, food and cooking.
Ironically, Ivan never thought of combining his love for Japan and food until years later. Ivan’s story is often misunderstood. Many paint him as a chef who became infatuated with ramen, moved to Japan to “learn from the masters” and then returned to the US. This is actually the opposite story. Ivan is a Japanophile turned chef.
Eventually the draw of Japan lured Ivan back and he returned with his wife and kids in tow. Together they raised their family while Ivan tried to figure out what his next step was to be. He taught cooking classes, and struggled to decide which type of business to open. It was at his wife’s urging that Ivan decided to open a ramen shop. This is where Ivan finally could combine his love for Japanese culture, his training as a chef, and his infatuation with the cuisine of Japan. The first shop was simply an expression of this. He viewed it as a restaurant, not a ramen shop, and approached his craft with the training of a professional chef versed in two cultures and cuisines.
Ivan made history as the only American to ever open a ramen shop in Japan. Not only did his shop open, it opened to: critical acclaim, huge lines, and thousands of Japanese devotees. The meteoric success of IVAN RAMEN Tokyo led to countless international articles, TV appearances, a successful cookbook, and acted as the springboard for Ivan to open not one, but two successful restaurants in NYC. Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in November of 2013 and Ivan Ramen in May of 2014.
The appeal of ramen for Ivan is that it is truly a cuisine with no rules. A relatively new food in Japan, ramen has the luxury of not being confined within strict and rigid guidelines. It is, as Ivan describes, a “maverick cuisine’ with as many variations as are imaginable. This “lawless” style of cooking has allowed Ivan to seamlessly blend his deep understanding of Japanese culture with his European culinary training and his NY sensibility to create a cuisine all his own. It manages to be both familiar to those who grew up with ramen, and also to the people who are just discovering ramen.
In the 2014 New York Times glowing two-star restaurant review of Ivan Ramen, his status was cemented as a true chef and not simply a ramen master. The way in which Ivan seamlessly and gracefully merges his love of Japan with his knowledge of Western cuisine and techniques is perfectly showcased at this restaurant, which is much more than a ramen shop, and continues to be named one of the best new restaurants of 2014. As the US undergoes its very own awakening to the complexities and joys of Japanese food, Ivan’s cuisine marks itself as truly unique yet remains incredibly accessible and understandable
His acclaimed cookbook, Ivan Ramen Love, Obsession and Recipes from Toyko’s Most Unlikely Noodle Shop has recently celebrated it’s first anniversary in print.
Richard Kuo is the young chef who has garnered critical praise and attention for his creative cuisine at hotspot Pearl & Ash on the Bowery. Previously at cutting-edge restaurants like WD-50 and Corton and even cooking at the Bocuse D'Or for his native Australia, Richard opened Pearl & Ash in spring 2013 and has since gotten rave reviews. The restaurant is packed nightly with diners looking to try Richard's innovative dishes like Diver Scallops with Berbere and Lily Bulb; Hanger Tartare with Cocoa Nibs & Slow Cooked Yolk; Long Beans with Chili an Uni; and his much-talked about Frenet Branca Ice Cream Sandwich. The New York Times critic Pete Wells named Pearl & Ash one of "The Best Restaurants of 2013," Bon Appetit awarded them one of "The 50 Best New Restaurants in America," and New York Magazine listed them as #4 on their year-end "Restaurant Power Rankings" for 2013.
Anne E. McBride is the director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University, where she is also pursuing a PhD in food studies, and culinary program and editorial director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at the Culinary Institute of America. She has co-authored four books with culinary professionals, including Chocalate Epiphany with Francois Payard and recently Les Petits Macarons with Kathryn Gordon.