The World According to David Chang, or 'As the Chang Turns'
"I don't believe in that whole superstar celebrity chef thing. I've worked in too many kitchens where the egos got in the way of the food. I appreciate the honor; it's amazing, but it's also surreal and absurd. Sometimes I feel like I'm on the Truman Show. I always considered myself one of the worst cooks in any kitchen I ever worked at."
"I think our stuff is overrated. And now I sort of feel like a hypocrite because I'm doing less and less cooking and more business. I never intended this to happen. People say, 'Oh, he's a genius, he's so talented,' but it's all hype. Who cares about that fluff?"
"My last good idea was my worst idea; every time my ego comes into it, it hinders the restaurant. Turns out the people in this neighborhood want real food, not fast food. We just want to make great food at an affordable price. And we don't copy. I've got the Emersonian take on that: Imitation is suicide."
— David Chang, in the New York Times last Friday
All right, already. I get it. David Chang, recipient of this year's James Beard Rising Star award award for best new chef and co-proprietor of New York's Momofuku and Ssäm, doesn't want to be a rock star chef.
Like Greta Garbo, he just wants to be left alone to "make great food at an affordable price." He's told us this on Eater, in the New York Times last Friday, in New York magazine, in Food & Wine, and Gourmet. Chang tells us this in alluring, telegenic, compulsively self-deprecating fashion.
Wait a minute. Maybe, just maybe, Chang has figured out something dastardly clever here. If he is constantly telling us he just wants to be left alone, that he is just one member of a tight-knit team of talented chefs that have so much great food they want and need to cook for all of us, maybe that's his way of finding out for himself what he does want and how he can get it.
Maybe David Chang wants to take over the world one noodle bar at a time. And if the price he has to pay for every joint he opens is one more round of press interviews where he tells us he doesn't want or need our attention, than so be it. It's a small price to pay for world noodle bar domination. Nobody wrings his hands in public quite like David Chang. Maybe the gentleman doth protest too much. Or maybe Chang is geniunely conflicted about the arc of his chosen career.
And for us serious eaters if all we have to do to eat more of Chang & Co.'s delicious food is listen to the most articulate and reluctant chef superstar among us ruminate in one media vehicle or another, than so be it. It's a small price to pay for a great bowl of noodles, a fabulous bowl of soup, a pork shoulder (bo saam) good enough to reduce famous chefs I've brought in to dinner to tears, and the only brussels sprouts I've ever truly loved (it's a seasonal dish, dude, it's off the menu now).