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 recipe?
David Chang: Something that’s deceivingly simple; those are my favorite recipes. It looks like there’s only three or four components on a plate, but it’s made with a lot of technique, and you can taste it, and you can see it.
That to me is a great recipe; that’s a pretty broad statement.
There’s many dishes I am envious of that other chefs make where I’m like, “Oh my god. That’s genius. That’s so delicious.” And no one can do it because that requires such a high level of skill. And to me that’s a great recipe. Because at the same time it’s easy to do, but there’s a barrier to accomplishing it because of the technique level and the skill level. And those are the ones I appreciate the most.
David Chang: Some of the things that Wiley makes at WD-50, I just get so mad at sometimes. He’s like a friend. They’re so delicious, but I’m just like, “Man, he’s so smart!”
It boggles my mind because, at the end of the day, it looks complicated but it’s not. It’s understanding food and food theory and building upon flavor profiles.
Chef Keller too. People are just like, “Wow! That’s really delicious.”
It’s simple. Like the Salmon __________ is like the greatest _________ of all time because it’s so simple.
That flavor combination has been around for years, but not packaged that way, and not executed at the high level.
And it could just be like pasta from Andrew Carmellini. Or getting fish sliced from Chef Yasuda at Sushi Yasuda. It’s like stuff that has a lot of technique. It looks simple slicing fish, but it’s not that simple. Those are the things that get me excited.
David Chang: I say this because one of our sous chefs said it’s like sort of the signature sort of Momofuku dish. I think it was simple like just cherry tomatoes on tofu __________ and like a little sesame vinaigrette. Not that it’s difficult to make, but it took us a long time to figure that one out. It’s basically our take on a salad caprese.
And we had all these market tomatoes, and we were just like, “What are we gonna do?” We were just literally looking at them on the table, just like, “Okay we’re sort of an Asian restaurant. How the hell are we gonna serve these?”
And we just stared at ‘em for a good hour while I was drinking a beer, and it was just like alright. No one thought of anything, and I’d come home and thought about it some more. And we were like, okay let’s peel the grape tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes, because I don’t necessarily like the texture on a cherry tomato. So it’s nice and beautiful too.
So you quickly blanche it and we’ll make beautiful little cylinders of tofu, and we’ll gently put it on and make a nice _________ of __________. So it looks like basil. The whole thing looks like mozzarella, and tomato and basil, but the flavor profile is completely different and couldn’t be more simple.
So we like that dish a lot.