Last week at Gastronomika, a whole day was devoted to the city on a hill, New York. Among the chefs representing the 212 were David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, Daniel "The Lion of Lyon" Boulud, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, and David Bouley. To welcome them there was cake. There was traditional Basque dancing. There were presentations. During the last one, Messrs. Chang and Dufresne shed some light on their native cuisine. That is, if they had a native cuisine at all.
Both Chang and Dufresne were adamant that New York doesn't have a cuisine of its own. Sayeth Dufresne: "We don't have a cuisine. We have all the cuisines in the world but we don't have our own."
Sayeth Chang, "We don't have a New York cuisine. I don't want New York to be known as a place that tries to make authentic dishes. We need to have our own cuisine and that's what we're trying to do."
And that's what Chang did. Accompanied by former Noma pastry chef Daniel Burns on the ones—and—twos, Chang made some bushi, substituting the traditional bonito tuna with pork tenderloin (natch) and a bacon dashi, a distilled bacon stock which gives his ramen its magical pork flavor. If there's one thing that screams New York cuisine, it's cramming pork into every crevasse of the culinary canon possible. It was, however, unclear how familiar the Congressistas were with either bushi or dashi (or Chang himself) but they seemed to enjoy the presentation in their own Iberian way. Chang, by the way, thought up the bushi after surfing the internet for camping food. So if you ever wonder what Chang does on off hours, it's looking up delicious chicken-and-rice freeze dried pouches online. And lots of porn.
Dufresne came later and eschewed the simultaneous translation for his own in-house wd-50 translator. He laid bare the formula for his approach to cooking: "I present classics in an unfamiliar way or unfamiliar ingredients and preparations in a classical way." He also used Asian ingredients, specifically Japanese fish sauce and dashi both of which he lerves. "I feel bad," he said. "You brought a bunch of American chefs to Spain and all we do is serve dashi."
But there it is. The ladies, methinks, doth protest too much. New York does in fact have a cuisine. It's dashi plus pork and a little bit of guilt.