David Chang is a Korean-American chef who is known for his unique combination of Asian food and French technique. After graduating Trinity College, Chang worked briefly in the financial services before embarking upon his career as a chef. Chang attended the French Culinary Institute and opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in Manhattan's East Village in 2003. Momofuku proved a resounding success; food critics as well as customers loved the restaurant's signature dishes, such as the Asian burrito and the kimchi and pork consomme.
In 2006, Chang opened his a second restaurant, Momofuku Ssam Bar. Chang was honored as both GQ and Bon Appetit's 2007 Chef of the Year. Chang is unapologetic about his food. "We do not serve vegetarian-friendly items," Chang has said. "Vegetarians are a pain in the ass as customers."
Question: How would you describe what you do?
David Chang: I run restaurants, yeah. It’s more than just cooking now.
I thought that when I opened up Momofuku Noodle Bar over three years ago, I thought that I’d still be there every night, 360 days a year only closing for Thanksgiving, and Christmas and certain holidays.
I had no idea that we’d have over 100 employees, trying to grow nationally.
Having opportunities like this to talk to people like you, it’s totally surreal.
What I do now, it seems, is managing a lot of people, and that’s what I’m learning right now.
Cooking is there and it’s what I love to do most; but it seems that with so many employees, and trying to grow, and running three restaurants, that it’s a lot about managing.
It’s the exact job that I didn’t want to have coming out of college, so that’s sort of the irony of it all.
The struggle is keeping it together, to be honest with you. A lot of energy keeping my shit together, excuse my language.
It’s totally absurd. The past three and a half years opening up the restaurant, __________, sort of definitely a pipe dream. It was not supposed to happen. I’m not supposed to be in this position, and I constantly remind myself that every day. I just try to stay as humble as possible about everything because there’s so many better cooks out there. There’s so many more talented people.
And I feel we’re in the right place at the right time. We try our best, but we were just incredibly lucky. So try not to let any of the press, or the media, or any of the attention get to my head or the restaurant. And what we do, we serve food and that’s what we do. And there’s nothing more important than that, you know.
Question: What is the joy in what you do?
David Chang: I’m trying to find that right now. The constant comment I get from a lot of people, my peers, or people I respect that I try to ask questions to for advice is, “Dave, you need to enjoy this a little bit more.” And I feel like if I do I’m just going to totally screw myself up.
So I’m trying to enjoy it a little bit more, but it’s difficult.