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 great chef?
David Chang: Wow. I think a great chef is somebody that inspires his team and continues to push the envelope cooking wise while maintaining the integrity of the culinary tradition that came before him or her.
Question: How is that different from a great cook?
David Chang: Being a great chef and being a great cook are completely two different things. A cook sometimes is a better cook than the chef. The chef ,you want to be the best in the kitchen at everything, and traditionally that’s the case.
But there comes a point where the chef is sort of removed from cooking on a day-to-day basis sometimes, and a great cook doesn’t always translate to being a great chef. I think that’s the thing.
For whatever reason, you need the intangibles now. It’s a lot more difficult now, I think, to be a chef because of the media pressures, working the PR, knowing what to say, managing people again, running a restaurant, finances.
There’s so many things involved now that it wasn’t before. None of these. You didn’t need these traits, to be a great chef, say, 20 years ago. And now you need to have an assortment of skills and wear many hats, and sometimes it’s really difficult.