The website for wd~50 describes its cuisine as “new American,” which is a little like describing Michael Phelps as “a guy who swims.” Yes, it’s true, but it’s so wildly understated as to be borderline delusional.

When chef-owner Wylie Dufresne opened up his Lower East Side restaurant in 2003, he announced himself to the world as an envelope-pusher, a creative force who deep-fried mayo, served pizza in pebble form, and rolled noodles out of shrimp meat, all without so much as a by-your-leave.

But how, exactly, does an individual evolve to see a sauce and think “fried cube”? Cheese slice and think “rock”? Crustacean and think ���noodle”?

Here, Dufresne takes us through the key dishes that influenced him on his way to earning three stars from the New York Times, one star from Michelin, and a nomination from James Beard for Best Chef New York for the past six years running.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.