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: What makes a celebrity chef?
David Chang: I don’t know. To become a celebrity chef is such a weird term, because that’s something that I would clown on as a cook. Because those are all qualities that you sort of don’t want. You want to be an amazing chef.
If you’re a celebrity chef, you want to be famous for your cuisine – like a Thomas Keller or _________. And there are many chefs that don’t get their dues because they don’t care about it.
For me, sometimes I get labeled and it makes me feel very un-at-ease. I don’t like it at all because I think it has a negative stereotype that you’re sort of a lover of fame.
I’ll do stuff – even this interview, for instance – to promote the restaurant because we’ve got a lot of guys and it’ll open doors for them. But I never thought that I’d be labeled “celebrity chef” because it’s just too weird for me. I’d rather be known as a great cook or someone that opened a great restaurant than a celebrity chef.
Question: Who does both well?
David Chang: I think the chef that straddles the line better than anybody was Mario Batali, in terms of being a celebrity and running a restaurant. He’s an amazing operator, great chef, and his personality is what you see is what you get on the TV. It’s very large.
But I think Thomas Keller probably set the bar in terms of being like the modern celebrity chef – modern chef in general. And there’s a difference.
There’s probably two categories for celebrity chefs. There’s like the TV chefs, and then the chefs that made it because their restaurant and cuisine is awesome and superior. And that’s why they’re famous, not because they were on TV or anything like that.