Each week, First We Feast photographer Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay) grabs her camera and hits the streets to explore a different aspect of the food world. Here, she shares her photos and stories.
This week, we dropped in on the family meal at wd~50, Wylie Dufresne‘s game-changing restaurant on the Lower East Side, to find out how the crew feasts before the customers start to stream in for the evening. It just so happened that it was sous chef JJ Basil’s last week. To commemorate JJ’s final few days at the restaurant, the kitchen staff cooked all of his favorite family meal dishes.
We were lucky enough to stop by on the day that wd~50 cook Simone Tong was making JJ’s absolute favorite, Singaporean��laksa lemak, or yellow noodles in a fiery broth tempered by cooling coconut milk. Tong’s laksa recipe—which she has been perfecting since last winter—was exceptional. “We believe some of our staff meals are better than food served to customers at restaurants that are known for their food,” said Tong.
Family meals, as these pre-service gatherings are known in the industry, are a chance for the wd~50 staff to show off their favorite recipes, and recipes from wherever they grew up. The staff meal is also a chance for them to take care of each other, impress each other, and say thank you.
We asked one of the cooks the family meals he remembers most: “For Super Bowl, we made 30 subs, wings, and nachos—it was a complete spread. A stage once made Indian food, and it was the best Indian food I’ve ever had in my life. For Christmas, everyone makes a dish from their ethnic background; it’s amazing.”
Here is a rough recipe for Tong’s laksa lemak, which you should definitely try at home.
Singaporean Laksa Lemak
Bird’s eye chillies
Make a paste out of the above ingredients. Fry the paste in a skillet. Make a chicken broth from chicken bones, vegetables, mushrooms, and fresh laksa leaf. Pour the ingredients into the broth, add coconut milk, and simmer until the oil gets red and floats to the top.
Serve with fried tofu, shredded chicken, chopped fresh laksa leaf, fried shallot, dried chiles, bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, and yellow noodles.