MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY VISIONARY WILEY DUFRESNE APPLIES TRADEMARK INNOVATION AND HUMOR TO MAKING DONUTS TRANSCENDENT

BY MATT SCANLON

It would be perfectly reasonable, if not necessary, to assume that a follow up act for molecular gastronomy pioneer Wiley Dufresne after his famed Brooklyn restaurant WD50 closed in 2014 would be to investigate further esoterics like charred ember infusions, sea urchin pasta, or absurdist cocktails. After all, he’d already been a James Beard Foundation nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2000, was immortalized on The Simpsons (playing himself), is a regular celebrity judge on BRAVO’s Top Chef, and has led MAD global cooking community symposiums and TEDx talks. Instead, the 47 year old International Culinary Center graduate and former colleague of Jean Georges Vongerichten (ultimately named sous chef of Vongerichten’s eponymous Jean Georges restaurant) brought shocks and grins to the world of serious eats by diving into…donuts.

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Channeling childhood days when he was entertaining himself at Ever Good Donut Shop in Central Falls, Rhode Island (of which his great grandfather, Wallace Dufresne, was owner) and living, as he explains, “on a steady diet of American classics: Johnny cakes, chowder, and coffee milk,” Dufresne focused with his newest enterprise, Du’s Donuts and Coffee, on an item that shaped some of his earliest memories a certain fried dough confectionery that traces its North American history to the olykoeks (“oily cake”) that Dutch settlers brought with them to New Amsterdam.

The idea, developed with partner Keith Durst and in a kitchen co helmed by Head Baker Colin Kull, was to turn a relatively small but airy 1,600 square foot space in the base of the William Vale hotel into a test bed of favor innovation, in which Dufresne experiments with donut varieties seen nowhere else. The resulting racks are a dizzying array of Espresso Cardamom, Brown Butter Key Lime, Pear Clove, Pumpkin Spice Latte Cruller, and many other varieties (typically $3.50 each), alongside a range of coffee drinks and cold brews from Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Kull brings his own impressive resume, which includes a two year stint at San Francisco bakery Tartine and a stretch as pastry chef at Chef Phil West’s three star restaurant, Range (for his work at the latter, he was named a “Rising Star” by the San Francisco Chronicle). Before joining Du’s, he was overseeing research and development for Green Heart Foods.

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Designed by architect Richard Lewis (Balthazar and Minetta Tavern), the glass enclosed storefront provides a view of the kitchen and doughnut glazing in action, and presents seating beneath expansive blonde wood paneling, in addition to stainless steel countertops, distressed cement floors, a La Marzocco espresso machine (customized in signature Du’s orange), and branded coffee cups featuring the molecular symbol for caffeine (company packaging was designed by Dufresne’s sister in law, Ridge Carpenter).

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Enthusiasm’s been such that a second location has opened at 62 Spring Street in SoHo, and even as he plans to expand the menu with breakfast sandwiches, Dufresne seems, at least thus far, unhurried in his attempts to celebrate anything other than this one, and signature, treat.

Wylie-300 Credit WD50

Du’s Donuts and Coffee
107 North 12th Street / 718.215.8770 / dusdonuts.com