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Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, and Roy Choi Host Dinner and More News

Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, and Roy Choi Host Dinner and More News


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In today's Media Mix, plus-sized fries, plus the life of a third-generation hot dog vendor

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Wolfgang Puck, Roy Choi, and David Chang's Dinner: The three chefs will host a dinner at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. We want to be there. [Grub Street]

Mega Potato French Fry Order: Apparently, new fry packaging in japan allows for a "share" option, where one package contains two large orders. It sure saves on waste, but that's a lot of fries. [FoodBeast]

Life of a Hot Dog Vendor: Spare some time to read about the life and hardships of a third-generation hot dog vendor in New York City. [Narratively]

How a Restaurant Keeps Kosher: A day in the life of a supervisor who makes sure everything in the J is kosher. [NY Times]

Girl Scout Cookie Beer: The Girl Scout cookie beers were a hit, meaning you can expect to see them around again next year. [ABC News]


Every Restaurant in David Chang's 'Ugly Delicious' Show on Netflix

Here's every restaurant 'Ugly Delicious' hosts David Chang and Peter Meehan visit in the first series of the food show on Netflix.

Cut to the chase: Ugly Delicious, David Chang&aposs new show on Netflix, is one of the most important (and probably the best) documentary food series I&aposve watched in years. Not only is it an international master class in some of the world&aposs favorite comfort foods, the construct of the show combined with Chang&aposs oftentimes-confrontational interview style offers powerful takeaways on multiculturalism and American history in every episode𠅊ll with an eye towards the future and how (or if) bringing people together around the dinner table can somehow open a gateway to mutual understanding and greater tolerance of our differences.

Sounds deep, huh? It is. And the series is so thoughtfully framed, it&aposs worth watching twice. Oh yeah, and the featured food is spectacular𠅋ucket-list, round-the-world itinerary, mouthwatering, destination-travel stuff. Here&aposs our complete cheat-sheet rundown of every restaurant in the first season of Ugly Delicious.


Everything To Eat&mdashAnd Cook&mdashAfter You Binge Roy Choi and Jon Favreau's 'The Chef Show'

The Chef Show, Netflix's buddy cooking show starring chef Roy Choi and Hollywood actor/director Jon Favreau, is the kind of show that both makes you hungry in the first five minutes and actually inspires you to cook. The friends met on the set of Chef, a movie in which Jon starred and Roy served as supervisor, and the two call this project an excuse to hang out and cook together again.

They just finished their third installment and once you've binged it, I know you'll be good and hungry. Here's a breakdown of the restaurants the two pals ate at, along with some recipes inspired by the meals they cooked on the show.

Episode 1: Wolfgang Puck

Roy and Jon met up with legendary chef Wolfgang Puck who gave Jon a hard time for not being able to "properly" make an omelette. He also showed the pair how he makes a few different delicious looking cuts of meat. Here are some copycat recipes.

Episode 2: Border Grill

If you're craving fresh and delicious Mexican food, this may not be the episode for you. because they make it look SO good. Roy and Jon visit Border Grill in Las Vegas where they make sweet potato and black bean tacos, two different types of ceviche and other delicious recipes.

Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger make another hilarious duo so this is a super fun one to watch.

Episode 3: Best Friend

Each episode gets more delicious than the last because during this one, Jon visits Roy's restaurant Best Friend in Las Vegas. He shows off some unique dishes like Dynamite Rice, while also doing some that are pretty self explanatory like elote. As he points out, one of the dishes is just "grilled fish" and another is "hot dog" (though it's actually called an LA Street Dog in the credits). Basically, it's not hard to follow but it's all DELICIOUS looking.

Episode 4: Pasta A La Raimi

In episode four, Roy and Jon team up with director Sam Raimi to make so many delicious carb-filled dishes, you'll forget you've ever heard the word keto. This episode is fun because Sam shares his recipe for "Pasta a la Raimi," and although we can't exactly recreate it, we shared some copycat recipes below.

Episode 5: Wexler's Deli

This episode is instant comfort. The pair go into Wexler's Deli in Los Angeles and learn all about how to make everything from lox to matzo ball soup. Roy even makes his own massive pastrami and lox sandwich. You'll want to rewind and watch over and over again.

Episode 6: Extra Helpings

This episode was a little bit different and included some bits you haven't seen in other episodes. Roy and Jon spend a lotttt of time learning about delicious and briny artichokes from Chef Daniele Uditi before making a chocolate olive oil cake with Sprinkles Cupcakes co-founder Candace Nelson.


The Chef Show

Jon Favreau takes a breather from directing blockbusters to link up with Chef Roy Choi to explore more amazing food and the talented cooks behind it.

Milk Bar Bake Sale

At Milk Bar in LA, chef Christina Tosi teaches Jon and Roy how to "take back the bake sale" with her elevated preparations of cookies, pies, and cakes.

Roy's Italian Cuisine

Roy teaches Jon his unique preparations for a selection of Italian dishes, including artichoke salad, lasagna, and (of course) spaghetti and meatballs.

Jessica Largey

James Beard Award-winning chef Jessica Largey welcomes Roy and Jon to help cook up her unique takes on pork meatballs, grilled cabbage and roast duck.

Tartine

Chefs Chad Robertson and Chris Bianco take Jon and Roy through their intricate processes for artisan bread baking, fermentation and coffee roasting.

Late Night Burger

Roy and Jon re-create Holeman and Finch's late-night burger, then sample Chad Robertson's take on a grilled cheese and a delicious dessert by Nina Subhas.

Jon Favreau and Roy Choi's culinary journeys continue to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond, as they dissect — and digest — some amazing recipes.

Wolfgang Puck

Jon and Roy visit chef Wolfgang Puck at his Las Vegas steakhouse CUT to test Jon’s omelet-making skills and prepare some incredible cuts of meat.

Border Grill

While in Las Vegas, Jon and Roy stop at Border Grill for a lesson in modern Mexican cuisine from co-owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

Best Friend

Roy brings Jon into the kitchen at his Las Vegas restaurant, Best Friend, where the two cook up some of Chef Choi's favorite dishes.

Pasta a la Raimi

Jon and Roy invite director Sam Raimi into the kitchen to bake sourdough bread and southern biscuits.

Wexler’s Deli

Jon and Roy visit Micah Wexler and Michael Kasser of Wexler's Deli to make some traditional Jewish deli staples and also concoct a few new variations.

Extra Helpings with Candace Nelson

Jon and Roy revisit some sweet and savory bonus recipes from Pizzana chef Daniele Uditi and Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson.

Jon Favreau trades in his director's chair for an apron as he embarks on more food-filled adventures with his friend and culinary mentor, Roy Choi.

Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen knows how to break down chickens, so Jon and Roy put him to work as they prep two distinct chicken dishes.

Pizzana

Jon and Roy visit Chef Daniele Uditi at LA's Pizzana, where Jon tries his hand at making Neapolitan pizza and some meticulously measured meatballs.

Guerrilla Tacos

Jon and Roy head to Guerrilla Tacos, where they enjoy some off-menu breakfast burritos and help Chef Wes Avila prep his flagship tacos and tostadas.

Hog Island

Jon and Roy study, harvest and prepare oysters in Tomales Bay, California. Then, the two get in on a barbecue at Hog Island Oyster Co.

Skywalker Ranch

Jon's worked on amazing films at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch. Now he works on dishes with Roy and Dave Filoni using fresh produce from the property.

Extra Helpings with Babish and Dave

Jon and Roy cook up some bonus recipes with Andrew Rea of "Binging with Babish" and "Ugly Delicious" host David Chang.

Jon Favreau and Roy Choi get together with accomplished chefs and celebrity friends for great conversation as they work together to make delicious food.

Gwyneth Paltrow / Bill Burr

Roy and Jon cook a Goop-friendly pepper pot with Pepper Potts herself, Gwyneth Paltrow. Then comic Bill Burr swings by to make some sandwiches.

Avengers Atlanta

Roy and Jon assemble some of the Avengers in Atlanta, including Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland, along with the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige.

Chef Film Recipes

Roy and Jon revisit the best dishes from "Chef," including Scarlett's pasta. Andrew Rea of "Binging with Babish" joins to make chocolate lava cake.

Remembering Jonathan Gold

Late food writer Jonathan Gold's reviews helped so many chefs. Jon and Roy honor his memory with KCRW's Evan Kleiman and Jitlada's Jazz Singsanong.

Robert Rodriguez / First Friday

Roy and Jon make pizza and chat creativity with Robert Rodriguez. Then, Jon goes to work in the LocoL truck and explores LA's food truck history.

David Chang

Jon and Roy head into the kitchen to make dueling fried rice recipes, before welcoming in David Chang to cook and discuss some classic Korean dishes.

Aaron Franklin

Roy and Jon travel to Austin to grab tacos with Aaron Franklin and then learn the intricacies behind preparing his famous Franklin Barbecue brisket.

Hot Luck

Aaron Franklin brings Jon and Roy to Hot Luck, Austin's "anti-food-fest food festival," where the duo serves up Roy's iconic short ribs.


David Chang’s L.A. restaurant Majordomo opens for dinner tonight in Chinatown

Of the many new restaurants we’ve been hungering for — actually, metaphorically — in this town, prominent among them is the first Los Angeles restaurant from chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku Restaurant Group, which includes Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar and the Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko. Chang has been busy lately, preparing to open that restaurant, called Majordomo, and with a new Netflix show, “Ugly Delicious,” debuting in late February. He’s also an NBC special correspondent for next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang — a gig Chang hadn’t really meant to coincide with the opening of his 13th restaurant, which will finally happen tonight.

Majordomo is fitted into an industrial section on the northeast corner of Chinatown, in a former warehouse that, Chang readily admits, is “more than a little” off the beaten path. ”If we were going to do something it needed to be different,” says the chef, seated at one of his dining room tables, the French doors open to the patio outside on a sunny, chilly-for-L.A. January day. On the corner of the building, a neon sign bearing Momofuku’s signature peach above a few Japanese characters is the only marker for the restaurant, a beacon of sorts among the neighboring studio spaces and Chinese wholesalers.

When Majordomo opens for dinner tonight, it will be the culmination of years of location-scouting and R&D and soul-searching — and plenty of eating. “I’ve been coming to L.A. since forever,” says Chang, whose cousins lived in L.A., and whose obsession with Koreatown has been well noted over the years. “I remember the first time I came here with my dad, it was like a golf thing when I was 8. We’d eat at naengmyeon shops.”

Majordomo is also a departure of sorts, starting with the name, which means “butler” or “head steward” of a household. “It’s a completely misunderstood word,” says Chang. “It sounds to me like it’s almost Japanese to people if you didn’t read it, it has this kind of “Blade Runner”-esque kind of thing.” It is, most importantly, not Momofuku. The restaurant itself is also not, insists Chang, a Korean restaurant.

“I don’t want anyone to think that we’re making Korean food,” he says. Why? “Because I don’t want to mess with Koreatown. I just have too much respect.”

What Chang is making does, however, have a lot in common with Korean food, as does the food he and his team have long made at the myriad Momofuku restaurants. There is his bing bread, a yeasted and griddled flatbread, with which he serves bowls filled with such things as fermented chickpeas with uni spicy lamb and soft-boiled eggs with potato chips and smoked salmon roe. There are bowls of fried butterball potatoes, puffed rice, salsa seca, peanuts and whole chiles tempura-fried peppers stuffed with Benton’s sack sausage (“It almost looks like a chile relleno!”) a basket of vegetables paired with chile jam and a riff on a Green Goddess dressing a plate of rare strip loin with rice, egg and rye bonji, a kind of soy sauce a bowl of the Japanese shaved ice dessert kakigōri, made with blood oranges, grapefruit and meringues and hotteok, filled Korean pancakes, stuffed with dates, pistachio and sesame. Also on the menu: pan-fried chow mein, soft tofu, black cod in paper with noodles and cabbage, short ribs with beef rice and shiso rice paper — and yes, Chang’s enormously lauded bo ssäm.

In short, it’s a mash-up of what excites Chang and his L.A. team, which includes executive chef Jude Parra-Sickels, who opened Momofuku Ssäm Bar and moved to L.A. to work with Roy Choi at POT general manager and Mozza veteran Christine Larroucau chef de cuisine Marc Johnson executive sous chef and Trois Mec alum Debra Keetch and beverage director Richard Hargreave.

“In New York I have to explain to people what Chinese food is and what Korean food is, and the fact that, no, I’m not Chinese, it’s this no, it’s not a tortilla, it’s this,” says Chang. “And I got so bogged down with explaining stuff and here, it’s a given. It’s a given that you can blend, you can mix, and if you do it in the right way, you’re being super respectful.”

Designed by the Momofuku Restaurant Group in collaboration with Toronto-based DesignAgency, Majordomo has a bar and counter seating in the roomy dining room, a private dining room and a big patio courtyard sporting comfortable couches under an open sky and strung lights. With panels from James Jean, ceramics from Adam Field and bar artwork by David Choe, the American Korean artist best known for his murals and graffiti art, Majordomo is both a very pretty space and, if you look closely, sort of a fermentation warehouse. Many of the jars on the shelves and in available corners contain now or will soon be filled with many of the housemade pastes and pickles and other stuff that Chang loves and that propel so much of his food.

“I don’t want to buy any fermented product,” says Chang. “I have a lab in New York, so we’re making stuff and shipping it out some of that is starters that I want to use. One of the things I really want to do here is make gochujang, doenjang, kanjang — all the jangs. We’re doing that we’re figuring out where to hide everything.”

Along with the fermented products, Chang is also predictably, understandably, excited about the local produce scene. He dips a sugar snap pea into a little bowl of chile jam, his version of crudite. “Everyone does this stupid dish now, but I’ve never had the chance to sell vegetables. I mean, we do, but we’re here. That’s why I put them in the basket this way, not on shaved ice this is just how my mom serves vegetables from the garden.” He picks up a radish from an enormous pile of vegetables. “It’s like skiing in Vermont your entire life and then getting to the Rockies. It’s like, what the …. This is amazing.”

Chang says he’s looking forward to opening for lunch soon, to Sunday dinners, to doing whole animal cooking, kids meals and maybe even brunch.

“Am I happier out here? Yeah, I think so. It’s a new start, more or less, and I’m terrified — but in a really good way. It’s a terrifying feeling because I know I have to move my …,” Chang says. “And I know that nothing that we’ve done before is going to translate to success out here. It sounds like how I talk to my shrink.”


David Chang: The Anxiety of Influence

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Photographed by Anton Corbijn, Vogue, September 2013

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David Chang has a restaurant empire, a food lab, an epicurean quarterly, and an army of admirers and imitators. Still, there’s one critic he has yet to satisfy—himself.

“I don’t like eating in restaurants,” says David Chang, who has eight of them in three countries. “I’m always criticizing and only see the mistakes.”

We’re sitting in Daisho-, one of three new restaurants that his company, Momofuku (“Lucky Peach”), opened last year in what’s locally known as the Ice Cube, a square glass building on University Avenue in downtown Toronto. Below us is the first foreign outpost of his famous Noodle Bar behind a wall to our right is the sleek, 22-seat Sho-to-, where I would later eat the best meal I’d ever had in this city I’ve visited more than 20 times.

This is Chang’s first dinner at Daisho-, and the staff is clearly anxious: The sommelier’s hands shake slightly as he uncorks a bottle of champagne with a knife blade, a process known as sabering. You can understand his nerves. After all, the Korean-American chef isn’t merely a demanding boss who’s in town checking up on things. He’s an international food superstar who hangs out with everyone from chef René Redzepi to _The Wire’_s David Simon to the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

Indeed, since exploding on the scene in 2004 as an East Village enfant terrible who parlayed ramen and pork buns into countless culinary accolades—he just won Outstanding Chef at this year’s James Beard Awards—Chang has become America’s most relevant chef, the king of what we might call the Umami Era, in which street food shares the table with haute cuisine and deliciousness matters more than decor. With an expanding empire and a huge fan base among the young, his ideas have never had more reach or impact. He’ll sell out a dull-sounding New School panel on dining and architecture, and set the food world buzzing at the mere rumor that his crown jewel, Ko, is looking for a new location.

“It’s so surreal,” Chang says, giving Daisho-’s chile-cucumber salad a quick, peremptory taste. “I constantly think I’m a fraud, that this success is not warranted or justified.”

Such is Chang’s mind-set at this pivotal point in his career. He’s got hot restaurants in New York, Sydney, and Toronto. He’s already written the best-selling Momofuku cookbook (with his pal Peter Meehan), and his innovative quarterly Lucky Peach has reinvented the epicurean magazine for today’s DIY foodies. He’s fronted a brainy PBS food show, The Mind of a Chef, and turned up playing himself (a tad uncomfortably, I’m afraid) on HBO’s Treme. Put simply, he’s made it. But what does it all add up to? And what’s his next move? These are questions Chang never stops worrying about.

In person, he is a presence to be reckoned with, and one suspects he always wanted to be. (Starting at age nine, he forced himself to drink a gallon of milk a day so he’d grow up bigger than his two older brothers.) Sporting a checked shirt and gray jeans, he’s a great bull of a man—he used to pump iron for hours each day just to burn off energy—who even in repose seems to hum. His wide, round face has an emotional transparency worthy of a great Method actor. He inhabits his feelings fully and comes out with things no other chef would say. “I can’t stand going into my own restaurants now,” he tells me at one point. “They’re so fucking loud.

Early in his career, he was the one cranking up the volume. Chang often came off like the Incredible Hulk: You won’t like me when I’m angry. His rages in the kitchen were legendary, so much so that Chang would nearly black out and have to take to his bed. To this day, when he’s annoyed, his jaw muscles tense all the way to the top of his skull. Yet, at 36, he insists he has mellowed—or at least is trying to. In any case, he’s extraordinarily good company, with a sweet smile, a terrific sense of humor, and a capacity for delight that hasn’t lost its innocence. He all but flushed with pleasure recalling how a star of his youth told him she was a fan of Lucky Peach. “Can you believe it? Tracy fucking Chapman!”

Still, to spend time with him is to know that Chang is haunted by self-doubt and the specter of misery. As we eat Daisho-’s hamburger—tastier, I think, than the vaunted Umami Burger—he talks with startling honesty about the things that torment him. Being ravaged with guilt the second he stops working. Having romantic trouble with his girlfriend, Gloria Lee, a 28-year-old Korean-Australian who worries (not unreasonably) that his fame may crush her. Adjusting to no longer being a young-punk chef but a successful businessman who has been offered a car commercial (he said no) and feels responsible for 500 employees. Could he be turning into another Emeril Lagasse or Wolfgang Puck, whose money-minded showmanship he used to dis?

These are not trivial concerns, and Chang treats them with the seriousness you’d expect from a guy who majored in religion at Connecticut’s Trinity College. After a few days of such ruminations, he jokingly begins to call me his “therapist,” and I see him less as the Hulk than as a latter-day Hamlet, a self-lacerating soul who stews endlessly over everything.

Including the food at his restaurants. After our meal at Daisho-, we head back to our rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel next door. But as we reach the entrance, Chang stops, jaw muscles rippling. He says he needs to go back up to the kitchen.

“That potato dish sucked—it wasn’t anything. What was that cheese doing?” He shakes my hand good night. “I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t get this fixed.”

I believe him. When we meet the next morning, the first thing he brings up is that unsatisfactory dish, which he took off the menu. And two weeks later, over dinner at the Spice Table in L.A., he gives me a smile: “I haven’t forgotten those potatoes.”

One Saturday night, we meet for a drink at Hearth, the East Village restaurant of his mentor Marco Canora, who he says is “like a brother.” They share a bear hug, and as is the way among chefs, we soon start receiving plate after plate of delectable dishes—fava-bean salad, poached snails with morels and black garlic. Because Chang once worked under Canora, it seems a good opportunity to talk about his rise to fame, which, as with so many successful people, takes on the retrospective aura of an origin myth.

Born in 1977, Chang grew up in Northern Virginia in what he calls a “sprawling suburb of weird shopping.” He was the youngest of four children of Korean immigrants, his father a restaurateur who later owned a golf shop. Although cliché would have it that Asian parents drive their sons to become doctors or lawyers, young David was an indifferent student, and his father dreamed that he would be a golf pro. As a teen, Chang did show promise. There was, he says, just one problem: “I was a head case.” This notoriously tricky game unleashed his tendency toward self-wounding perfectionism. It’s not for nothing that one of Chang’s heroes is John McEnroe, pictures of whom hang on the walls of his restaurant Ssäm Bar.

Chang had always been interested in food, especially noodles, but something clicked his first time in a professional kitchen. “I was like, ‘Wait a second—not only do I like to do this, I want to come back and do more.’ ” Through his early 20s, he worked at places like Craft and Café Boulud, studied at the French Culinary Institute, and did grunt work at restaurants in Japan. He developed a profound, if not worshipful, reverence for refined classical cuisine. [#image: /photos/5891da357edfa70512d671c9]|||||| But he also compared himself to every superb young chef he met and didn’t think he was talented enough to get ahead in the world of fine dining. With a chutzpah that in retrospect looks like inspiration, this brash 27-year-old decided to do a sophisticated riff on seemingly low cuisine. Raising start-up costs with help from his father, he opened Noodle Bar in the East Village, a stripped-down 650-square-foot joint paneled with plywood and cork. (When you see a restaurant with plywood walls nowadays, and there are many, it’s almost certainly a child of Noodle Bar.)

Of course, as Chang always insists, what really matters is the food. This Korean-American kid staked his career on high-powered versions of dishes from two other Asian cultures, serving a lushly porky Japanese ramen and the best Chinese pork buns anybody had ever tasted. The gamble paid off. Noodle Bar became a sensation, loved by critics and customers alike, and the self-dramatizing Chang wowed the media with his uncensored authenticity.

“He was a great interview,” recalls Meehan, who first wrote about him in 2005 for The New York Times. “And he kept being a great interview in a way that people in food weren’t. He split an infinitive with ‘fuck,’ and he cooked food you wanted to eat.”

Mixing traditions and bored by cultural labels—which has paired him perfectly with the Obama years—Chang wouldn’t let himself be pigeonholed as a Korean, or even Asian, chef. To this day, he insists that the Momofuku restaurants serve “American food” and that what counts is whether it’s excitingly delicious.

“I want the diners to smack their heads and think, Fuck, why didn’t I think of that? It’s like when you go to MoMA and think, I could’ve done that.” He smiles. “But you didn’t.

Noodle Bar raised expectations so high that the question was how Chang would follow up. Hoping to create something capable of mass-market appeal, he decided to build a restaurant around his version of the ssäm, essentially a Korean burrito, which you assemble yourself with meat, lettuce, and sauces. (The rotisserie-duck ssäm, incidentally, may be the tastiest single dish at any Momofuku restaurant.) But when Ssäm Bar opened in 2006, people just didn’t want to eat them. Attempting to salvage the restaurant, he began filling the menu with more daring and ambitious dishes, developing the flavor combinations from Noodle Bar. These new dishes—often original, sometimes bizarre, but always delicious—began winning him coveted awards. In an irony he thoroughly appreciates, his attempt to go mass wound up pushing him toward haute cuisine.

Two years later he opened Ko, a twelve-seat restaurant with dishes as audacious as anything being served in Manhattan (including desserts by a brilliant pastry chef, Christina Tosi). It was a smash, winning Chang more awards (plus two Michelin stars) and driving crazy avid diners who were dying to get in but couldn’t outsmart its tricky online booking system. During my meal there, the chef told me about a Parisian family who’d flown over nine times to eat Ko’s signature shaved foie gras with lychee and its soft-cooked egg with onion soubise, caviar, and potato chips.

In four years, Chang had gone from a noodle cook to an international name brand whose dazzling ascent made him the role model for countless other impatient young chefs who hoped, like him, to open their own places without long years of apprenticeship in someone else’s kitchen. His fame allowed him to begin steadily growing his empire outside the East Village—opening Má Pêche in midtown Manhattan in 2010, Seio-bo in Sydney one year later, and the Toronto trio the year after that. (For some reason, this pretension-hating chef is drawn to restaurant names that couldn’t be more hoity-toity—they come complete with diacritical marks.) At the same time, he and pastry chef Tosi began expanding Momofuku’s chain of hugely successful stand-alone Milk Bar dessert shops, which have inspired a cult around her insanely rich Crack Pie and Proustian soft-serve ice cream that tastes like cereal milk.

“His genius isn’t so much in the cooking as in understanding the Zeitgeist in the way that nobody else did,” explains Ruth Reichl, who, as then-editor of Gourmet, was one of Chang’s early champions. “At that point, most restaurateurs were thinking it was the reader of The New York Times they had to woo. But they aren’t the people who are spending money today. It’s the 20- to 30-year-olds who spend all their disposable income on food and are extremely knowledgeable about it. As his work got more sophisticated, he trusted his audience to follow him. He’s one of them.”

In truth, Chang’s ascent was almost too good to be true. And Tosi says she teased him about it. “I remember telling him that he’d obviously sold his soul, and someday the Devil would come to collect.” On mornings when some Momofuku crisis is brewing, she will still send him a text that says simply, “Is today the day?”

A couple of weeks after we first meet in Toronto, I drive to the Hotel Bel-Air in L.A. for one of those famous-chef dinners that are part of the promotional whirl. Chang has flown in to work in the kitchen alongside his friend Roy Choi, inventor of the city’s fabled Kogi taco trucks, and the old master himself, Wolfgang Puck. My wife and I sit with Chang’s business partner, Andrew Salmon, who is all affable circumspection, and teddy-bearish Chris Ying, the low-key editor of Lucky Peach, who previously worked for Dave Eggers at _McSweeney’_s. Both profess slight embarrassment at being caught wearing jacket and tie.

Although I’ve dined at seven of Chang’s restaurants, it’s the only time I’ve eaten food that bears his actual touch. When I mention this, Chang gives a resigned nod. Although he’s constantly “curating” the food at his restaurant—he compares himself to a magazine editor in chief—he spends most of his time nowadays maintaining and promoting the Momofuku brand. The company is working on a line of even more casual restaurants, creating a new enterprise called the Lucky Peach Media Group (Chang and Meehan are talking about doing another cookbook), and Momofuku is launching several products out of its food lab: Pine-nut miso! Lentil tamari!

“He’s become a businessman,” says Meehan. “That’s the thing I’ve seen change. He’s always had that aspiration, and he’s just gotten better or embraced it more.”

Of course, being Chang, he also doesn’t embrace it. Meehan tells me that Chang is currently torn between being admired as “an awesome chef, an innovator,” and searching for a way to cash in. If getting rich were all that mattered, he and Salmon could have already sold off Momofuku to a corporation that offered what Chang calls, not without a hint of regret, “hundreds of zeroes, thousands of stores, [the chance to be] a millionaire maybe a hundred times over.”

To sell or not to sell, that is the question. His fellow star chefs all urge him to make a killing while the going’s good, but Chang feels that this would be betraying everyone working at Momofuku who wouldn’t get rich: “I could see myself becoming a miserable fuck, like going on a drug binge and blowing my head off. I’d be one of the those rich guys who feels so guilty and hates the money.”

Besides, he’s still enthralled by what we might call his Utopian Dream of Momofuku. In Chang’s never-quite-articulated vision, Momofuku is a collective enterprise devoted to inventive flavors and respect for employees—offering everything from health insurance to the freedom to invent new dishes. Where other chefs use their reputations to sell lines of tableware, Chang puts money into Lucky Peach, whose blend of recipes, chef talk, and cultural speculation embodies his democratizing ideas about food. If Salmon operates this grand enterprise, it’s Chang’s tempestuous enthusiasms that fuel it.

“The great thing about Dave,” says Ying, “is that he pushes people to do their best work. Always.” He laughs. “Of course, he can be real a Tiger Dad.”

Counting himself as one of Chang’s “sons” is Danny Bowien, the bespectacled, bleached-blond chef behind the hot (and prize-laden) Mission Chinese Food. Not only was his scrappy San Francisco restaurant inspired by Chang, Bowien later opened a New York branch not far from his hero’s East Village spots.

“He had every reason not to like us,” says the resolutely untormented Bowien, “but the night [before] we opened our restaurant, we had a ‘friends and family.’ I was, like, scared, and he came at the last minute. And he was, ‘What do you want to know? Whatever you want to ask me—I’m yours.’ And that was amazing. My wife was with me, and he said, ‘You’re married to a beautiful wife, you’re doing it right. Don’t let it make you unhappy. It’ll kill you.’ ”

Chang now accepts that his earlier, fury-powered approach to work was profoundly self-destructive. He was killing himself for what, exactly? Although he’d achieved success so surreal he compares it to an acid trip, he wasn’t able to enjoy himself. “It’s just existential stuff, dude,” he says. “I’m constantly dissatisfied.” He decided to start looking for what he calls “a certain happiness in my unhappiness.”

For starters, that meant he had to stop living like a college kid. Although he still favors T-shirts and Levi’s, he sold his dark apartment in Chelsea and bought a new one in Tribeca, bursting with light. “It’s weird waking up to the sun,” he says. “I’ve never had that.”

Looking at peers like Meehan—who has a wife and a young daughter—he realized it might be time to think about settling down. He allowed himself to begin a long-term relationship with Gloria Lee, whom he met while setting up Seio-bo in Sydney, where she worked as a PR executive for Gucci. His parents adore her. As I began researching this article, Lee was officially his fiancée, and we had arranged that I’d interview the two of them together when she got back from straightening out visa issues in Australia. By the time that day came, things had gotten rocky enough between them that they were still seeing each other but were no longer engaged. Neither will talk about what’s going on in their relationship, but when he calls to say the interview is off, Chang solemnly assures me, “I’m going to do everything I can to make it work.”

Until then, he finds refuge from his boundless stress in the old, reliable places. He’s an absolute sports nut who peppers his talk with references to everyone from Kobe Bryant to Roger Federer, whom he admires for embodying the effortless ease he’s never had. Chang feels that he’s trapped being like Rafael Nadal, who can never stop showing the strain of how hard he’s working.

His other release valve is shooting the breeze with less-anxious friends. One Friday night, we go to dinner at the Spotted Pig and are led upstairs to the private third floor, which has been turned into a kind of clubhouse for celebs. It was here that Beyoncé threw a birthday party for Rihanna, dancing the night away while Jay-Z watched TV in the corner. Chang is a regular.

His tense features soften the moment he sees his buddies: the restaurant’s co-owner Ken Friedman Aziz Ansari, gently witty in person, who will dash off to do a comedy show, then come back and musician James Murphy, from the disbanded group LCD Soundsystem, who is enough of an epicure to suffer from gout. The latter two met Chang at an Arcade Fire after-party and instantly hit it off talking noodles. Ansari took a cell-phone photo of them together and jokingly tweeted, “David Chang, @lcdsoundsystem, and myself want to go to Tokyo and eat food. Can some magazine/Travel Channel pay for this?” GQ did. (“It was a no-brainer,” the assigning editor told me.)

Soon the table is filled with drinks, appetizers, and manly talk about Dwight Howard’s future and LeBron’s traveling barber. Eventually the topic turns to the elegance of chef Jean-Georges Von­gerichten, whose pleasure in life Chang admires. “I don’t envy other chefs,” he says, “but his chef’s jacket has got this beautiful monogram, white-on-white, just so subtle. He’s amazing. He drives everywhere, and he told me that in 25 years, he’s only gotten three parking tickets. He always finds a space.”

Just then the door opens, and who should walk in but . . . Charlie Rose, in jeans and an orange sweater. I’d been told that he and Chang were friends, but nobody had expected him to turn up. Earlier, the table had been awed at the revelation that Rose is such an éminence grise that his cell number begins with 212.

As Rose and Chang avidly talk tennis—why Nadal’s body almost has to break down in battling the likes of Federer and Novak Djokovic—I think back to something Chang told me that night at Daisho-. He said that the food he likes best these days is basic, like a good slice of fluke with a bit of soy sauce. “Of course,” he confesses, “I’m going to make my own soy sauce.” Not one to believe in shortcuts, he describes this approach as “making simple hard.” It strikes me that this is the story of his life, which puts me in a tough spot. As a diner, I’m all for the complicated simplicity of his food. But as his therapist, I would urge him to let simple be simple.

On this night it is. As midnight approaches, Rose is crying, “Where’s my food?” when waiters appear carrying plates of char-grilled burgers and skirt steak and a slice of halibut for—you guessed it—Chang. This table of meat-eaters howls at the irony that the fish has been put in front of the man who built his Momofuku empire on pork belly.

As we eat away, Rose turns to me and says, “Here’s the big question: Is David Chang Einstein or Edison?”

I have my own answer, but I turn to the man himself: “So, Dave, which genius are you?”



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