Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; David Chang: Momofuku Cookbook
Tonight on behalf of Harvard bookstore I am pleased to welcome you to an evening with Chef David Chang. He's here tonight to talk about his new book on the food this new history slash cookbook is coauthored by Peter Mann who also provided the book's brief introduction there Peter speaks warmly about David Chang and his band of coconspirators from his four restaurants calling them a pirate crew collective Pumbaa talented dedicated people working for New York's ultimate restaurant chain. He talks about how delicious and gutsy and honest food is and you can almost hear Peter sighing when he writes about those flavors that pop the fucking pork buns. So David Chang's first book of the fuko chef provides us with his own commentary history and that of his restaurants alongside dozens of gorgeous recipes and photos including Ginger scallion noodles roasted roasted New Jersey diver scallops cereal milk a dessert called simply chocolate hazelnut thing and many others also included our occasional educational sections like one titled fun with meat glue. David
Chang is a chef and owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar Momofuku some bar some of the most bakery and milk bar located in New York City's East Village. He is known for his throw devotion to pork. His mastery of the ramen noodle and his long running support for small independent farmers chef Chang has been named a food wine best chef in GQ and Man of the year. Rolling Stone agent of change a bone a petite a chef of the year and others he has taken home three. James Beard awards including rising star Chef Besh Chef New York City and Best new restaurant. We are so pleased that he is here with us tonight. Everyone of my thanks for your patience. Please join me and welcoming chef David Chang. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's always strange to do these book tour things and you know I got into cooking so you wouldn't do this type of thing so bear with me. I'm still getting used to it. Peter me and would be here today but he's giving.
Well he has he's going to have his first child tonight so he couldn't make it so my better half is not here so we got to know each other Peter was a writer for The New York Times 25 and under. And I never knew who he was and. And you know it's true we met at a concert and we just sort of became friends and I just I just thought it was a little too early to write a cookbook and you know after a year we kept on getting offers to write a cookbook and I was like oh about what. We have nothing to really write about. And then the more we said no the more people persisted. And I finally asked Pete and he said why not. And there's nobody that knows the story better than Peter and he really really capture the voice of the restaurant myself and the whole crew. And so I wish him the best tonight. And it really wouldn't have happened without his his his help. But you
know the one question I have that all the time about the book is Why do you write the book and why there are so many curse words and why why are they all these things. And we didn't want to write a book that had all. I just feel like I collect the cookbooks it's one of the few hobbies I have maybe the only hobby I have. And we wanted to make sure that it was a little bit different because we didn't want another soft shell crab recipe we didn't want another you know brain short or breast. We didn't want the same of everything. And at the end really what we wanted to do was document what was happening what happened when we opened up in 2004 and really we had to find NPR it so that was March 2009 which is why there is no inclusion of milk bar because we you know it just didn't happen. It was. You know Christina Tosi will come out with her own tracery of a Soon enough I think. But every recipe
that's in there. We actually took out some one that were too difficult to write too difficult to sort of make. Even at the restaurant. But we wanted to document what happened and the recipes that are in the chapters from noodle bar to co are sort of are exactly the recipes that were on the menus at the time. And it was easy to document everything because that our restaurant we sort of share everything with through email and we just went through a menu after menu after menu and. And everyone you know in the inner circle move who has a BlackBerry and we use that to make fun of each other most the time and to really exchange ideas. And that's that's shaped a lot of the cookbook. But that really that that the
end that that end goal was to document it because I really didn't think we'd be around the following year or the next year I still feel like things are always we're always walking on thin ice in a restaurant. There's always problems. People like Oh you made it so successful and I'm always like. You know I don't feel that great about it because it's just a difficult business I don't know if any of you guys are in the restaurant industry but it's just so hard to make it work. And you know here I am in Harvard synonymous with you know people have achieved great things and you know I was always a classic slacker so it was always weird for me to have something that actually worked and to maintain that success was incredibly difficult. You know I got out of fine dining because I didn't want to number one I didn't think I could
cook as well as the chefs I was working for number two. To cook for expectations was a drag. It's a little bit of a drag at the time shooting for New York Times three stars or a Michelin star. After a while I just thought that took the joy out of it and I'm weirdly back in that whole mix of things trying to maintain those stars that we received which we didn't want. We didn't want any of it. We just want to I just wanted to open up a restaurant and I was explaining to a reporter today like what's your agenda. And I was like I don't have an agenda. I just want to open up the restaurant to make sure that we open up for a year and then everything else is gravy. So you know we there's so many strange things that have happened the past like going on almost six years. We just wanted to tell the story from our side and it's been well documented. But
you know I'm sorry for some of the recipes are difficult. I'm sorry if I didn't bring food with me I've as tried been traveling and I'm shocked that there are people from Boston here of interest in our restaurant. Maybe one day we'll open up in Boston but I think we're pretty preoccupied in New York right now. Some. But the one thing with the cookbook is. You know we made a lot of mistakes and that's how we grew. I opened up the first restaurant that sort of test myself and when I say test myself I guess I needed it is that. There are a lot of things are going on I just got back from Japan I think I was in culture shock and I just you know I didn't finish my year cafe balloon. My mother had just had cancer the second time and I had you know this is after 9/11 and you know
spending like a year and a half I had three really good friends pass away and you know and there's a family business it was just a really really dark dark time and I was just like screw it. I'm going to open up a noodle bar. You know I knew nothing about running a business. I had only been cooking professionally for about four years and 2004 was probably the greatest the greatest year the past decade in New York City dining. You had per se open up which is French Thomas Keller's outpost and Columbus Circle three Michelin star sushi restaurant Blue Hill St. bars open up crew hearth restaurant there are probably around eight or 10 restaurants that got received three New York Times stars or or four. And I couldn't find anyone to work with me because I decided to open up a place called Momofuku Noodle Bar. That was that was a really humbling experience because I had worked with a lot of people
that were sort of entrenched in the restaurant culture. And that's how it is like I started out cooking. Not that it was very long ago but I felt like I caught the tail end of it. I want to start around 99. I don't think you. You didn't you didn't get into cooking because it was cool you didn't get into cooking because you thought you'd be on TV. You got I got into it because I couldn't really get the job any job that I wanted and it was the one profession that I thought that it was there was a purity there was an honesty to it. But I was terrible at it and I still think I'm terrible at it. But I mean really I was bad at it my my cooking school partner quit because of me. Seriously she refused. She refused to enter level 2 as my partner. And when the chef told her that she was stuck with me she decided she'd rather drop out. So. But that's the
thing that's why I love cooking and that's why I'll take cooks that are just terrible because I know one was as bad as I was and under proper guidance and direction which I received when I worked under really and when I went to crap I feel like I won the lotto. Tom Colicchio assembled probably one of the best teams possible. Everyone that worked in that kitchen is a chef or was a chef of their own restaurant and they really took me under their wing and taught me a lot. And you know I wanted to work there so bad. They you know I didn't it didn't dawn it that you know there are days where I didn't feel like they were teaching me they were just sort of hazing me or I didn't understand why they were making my life more difficult than it needed to be. You know why I had to create three extra dishes and and do all this extra stuff. But that was particular from Jonathan Benno who's been a big mentor. Everyone from that team that has
been. But he's a chef a persay now. He's leaving open up his own restaurant. And I went. I mean I wanted to work so badly there that I could. I answered phones. And you know most people wouldn't do that today because it's really different the culture of cooking is very different. I've been asked to get paid by and I answered phones so I could make money. And then I learned how to clean mushrooms I learned my knife skills. You know you need to have a foundation in basically a French foundation and you need to get your teeth kicked in a little bit. And that's what that's what happen. You know there's a hazing process that I think that is sort of missing today in the cooking culture. Cooking has become a white collar corporate culture and it really isn't. I speak to Carmel Ynys a chef and look on the very day now in New York and he
was the chef that I think are going to Julliard. Really bright bright guy and he grew up in Cleveland and he said he just wanted to cook because it was as though he was one of the great crafts and he wanted to take it as far as possible. But back in the mid 80s he said to go into the color profession was actually deemed lower than going into the army or going into prison. And he's not joking when he says that so that's why he's. You have a lot of these older chefs that cooked in the late 70s 80s that are totally perplexed or really enjoying the ride that is the this weird call an airy pop culture thing. So you know it makes it makes it very hard for me to sort of justify a lot of the things because we've been incredibly successful. But there are all so many great chefs out there that have come before me and people that I've worked for and
they have they don't have their own restaurants I sort of cut the corner I cut I cut in line. I feel like I cut in line and I feel obligated to sort of pay my respects and do it the old fashioned way. But you know I didn't we didn't want these accolades you know. And so I was sitting there and all those awards. You know I try not to believe any of it because I think if you start believing that you're going to spin off the planet and. I want us I would say us as a restaurant I want us to be our harshest critics because we have to be we have to hold ourselves the highest standard and that's sort of the philosophy that developed over time at Momofuku. What was sort of like a Joe restaurant was turned into how can you we. We opened up a 600 square foot restaurant. That's what the kitchen or of any guy's been to the original noodle bar. We it
was 600 square feet so it's about the size of a one car garage. And we fit 27 seats in there. Somehow. And on a busy day we would do anywhere from 300 to 350 people. That didn't happen immediately. We were going to go out of business after about seven months and you know it's been documented but I think there's something liberating when you realize that you have nothing to lose. And when you know when the accountant tells you you know you're going to go out of business. I always said I know I was like well let's go out in a blaze of glory let's just do whatever doesn't matter. Who cares. Nobody really cares. So we started to cook not with reckless abandon but we started to cook things that we wanted to do we stopped listening to the customer. You know we start being in the hospitality business and I joke that we started getting you the fucking food business. That
was that was how I described it in sort of to this day. And I mean we just focused on the food and and disregarded everything else. And we wanted to apply the same standards that. Any three Michelin star restaurant any what you any are the Platonic idea of what the perfect restaurant might be and we want to apply to this very humble plywood wall restaurant. And that was our standard. And anything below that people wouldn't last so we had you know we wanted that dichotomy have really high standards but of really sort of a hole in the wall status. And people thought that we had this minimalist that way because that was the vibe we were going for. No one were dead broke. Plywood is cheap. So that's how that happened as well. So and then slowly you start learning how to run a business and our food got better and
you know it becomes a sort of living organism. And people start coming onboard and they start believing in what's happening. And we didn't grow because we wanted to get bigger. We grew because out of necessity a building became available. We needed to produce food for this little space. Most people would have moved the restaurant to the bigger space. We decided to keep it in the small space and that became sambar. So was half commissary and I had this brilliant idea to do a Korean Mexican burritos. I really made so much sense to me at the time and I still think it they had. You know there are people that like them. I just think that it's hard to explain to people and it just didn't work out so well. And then we were forced again at the time again.
I put my apartment we had put up the noodle bar for collateral for the restaurant for the loan. And you know we bet everything we bought the house literally on sambar and nobody knew what Sam was. And you know after about six months we had about I think it was 90 days of sort of 90 days of money to run the restaurant. And we just started to serve late night and then again making mistakes. We sort of sort of followed this non-linear pattern of of what. People would tell you never to do you know if you followed our traditional outline or business plan or how a restaurant would normally operate we we would follow how well business goes out of business. So we sort of threw caution to the wind and started cooking real food and I say real
food composed plates from two o'clock to six in the morning totally ass backwards. But we got we started to develop a cook culture chefs off came from late night and late night started to develop into this really really cool thing. And what was great was every one everybody read it wrote us off. It was great. What's the terrible thing about New York is the spotlight it's great and it's terrible at the same time. But nobody really cared about us anymore. We were a one hit wonder and we were able to sort of start cooking in and tweaking different things without the scrutiny of the media and the media didn't really know about this is a sort of the secret thing just cooks like come to sambar it's you know Anyways long story cut short we move sambar. We change it completely. So we start doing compose plates pretty much all day and my beloved Asian burrito you
know went to the graveyard and what turned out to be a total joke. Sort of a total utter disaster and people would say that is one of the biggest Cullinane disasters in New York City the past 25 years sambar the national phase of a version 1.0. You know two years later what was turned out to be a cautionary joke through hard work and through every mistake you could make and making mistakes once but never the second time around. We want of getting two stars from The New York Times which pissed off everybody because they were like How the hell is this place that has disposable chopsticks disposable paper time I mean we don't even have hand towels we had a crappy blow dryer open kitchen like music. We got two stars. That never happened before. All of a sudden we were at the center of this
storm in the New York media the color and media. You know they were talking about new paradigm restaurants whatever we were just trying to serve good food and pay our bills. And that happened and we kept on trying to improve and get better and never be satisfied with the status quo and always trying to exceed expectations. So what turned out as a sort of a my way of trying to get out get out of cooking for expectations I'm living in a world of expectations now and then you know a year later we get reviewed and we got three stars in The New York Times. Then everybody really got upset. They said Dave Chang or Momofuku is killing fine dining in New York City. And you know all I said was we're just trying to serve great food. That's that's our goal. I don't care what anyone else is doing we're not the reason we're doing it we're doing it because we can't do what they do. The big guns are doing so.
You know we had this gorilla like approach and it was easier because we were sort of smaller and a little bit more nimble to notice mistakes to detect. You know what could have been a tumor early and learn from that. And then you know six months after that restaurant news magazine from the UK named some of the thirty first best restaurant in the world and I was just sort of like now this can't be true. And I felt like it's a joke it's a joke. And you know when and also when we open up CO we got three stars. New York Times you know I think in five years we could for Frank Bruni 29 28 times. And I was there for like 23 seasons. Oh he's easy to spot easy. She has his Frank Bruni.
You know who is a restaurant critic for almost six years and we we knew every time K-Man am. But that's the thing is like we told I told the guys whenever he was in. We're going to kill him. We're going to kill him he's going to leave and he's going to be like What the fuck just happened because I was like We're not nervous if you're nervous that means you're not ready that means you're not preparing yourself that you need you're not disciplined. That means you're not comfortable with the of the foundations. That means we're not teaching you right. We should be just it should be like every like everybody's everybody's getting food like Frank Bruni is getting food. That's the type of pressure we have. We created it was it was something that you know for two years was sort of a magical run at some bar and you know again accident you know noodle bar started to fall apart we had to move up to a bigger restaurant and so we moved a little bar up and
went again. Stupid move. We decided what 600 square foot restaurant. We moved to a 4000 square foot space. And we're there's about almost 80 seats in there now. And we decided we wouldn't even change anything. We would just do the same thing that we normally do. So we close one day and then we open lines for the next without doing a test run at all. And we got demolished. We got pummeled because we just didn't know how to operate. You know we were instead of doing 300 covers we did like 700 covers. It was a nightmare. And a little bar work in progress and it's it's only now getting to a point where things are. Things are not only good but I think we're cooking at a very high level there and hopefully that improves an unco was sort of a joke and a joke but it was like a 12 seat restaurant. We had to do something with the space.
We couldn't do it literally was falling apart and we didn't have the money to sort of redo the plumbing. You know there's a lot of problems in New York in the East Village in spaces like our old hot water we don't have enough hot water but we have a wooden stairwell. But I don't have the permit to change the wooden stairwell to our own stairwell so I have I can't change my gas I let you water here should we gas water heater so I only have enough hot water for the day so I can only do enough covers for the day. So that was really the city's decision and we decided that we only had enough hot water for around thirty six people. So that's how we decided CO would happen and. CO was 12 seat restaurant we wanted it to be a server service restaurant and it's changed dramatically the menu that is in this book is designed to hopefully one day a cookbook but will will write a
cookbook for CO. The recipes will to be complex but we wanted the theme to be the dishes to look very simple but deceivingly complex. I find those dishes to be the best and. That was that was not that. That was I was the one project that sort of worked from the get go and we were just like are we getting better at this or we're just getting lucky and the entire time. I always think we're lucky. And and you know to the chef to the chef world if you grew up sort of in the French chef culture getting a Michelin star is the highest honor. And I don't care what anyone says. But that's the world that I grew up in. And we to get a Michelin star is is very important. There's certainly a movement and counterculture in France in Europe to sort of overthrow mission guide with you know different types but still like to get a Michelin star is pretty important I would
not never forget it. We're doing a event to raise money for Obama and. I find out that we got two Michelin stars and I was catatonic the entire night I couldn't do anything. It was the one of the worst days of my life because I was like they could have given us one star but two. I was like oh man like that means they're going to want to stick it should get three stars. But that means also if we have a bad year they could take away a star. So I was in this this limbo and people were trying to talk to me and I felt like the dude in Ferris Bueller where he was just sort of in another planet. So yeah. And then we open up a milk bar and Christina Tosi killing board and really what the story is is I've just been like you know all these great people start to come on board and. You know we don't have any investors so we're allowed to be as crazy as we can with our food and we can play the music as loud as we want I know I'm getting older because
I'm like it's really loud in here and they're like well it's always the same level. You know but that's that's what happened and we're opening our fifth restaurant called Ma passion to know who I work with a cafe volute is going to be the executive chef there. And I say executive chef because I'm not cooking anymore. I would like to be cooking more. That's that's because it's honest work I can I can measure my day today that I was on a train all day and I'm here and I'm doing this this is great but it's like that I have a good day I don't know. Like cooks cooks need constant approval. Yes and you know when you're when you're cook you know you're Meason plus list and you know the only person you really need to talk to is your partner at whether it's AM or PM and you do your prep you cook. And as long as you don't get yelled at by the chef you know a great day. It's
not the case anymore and now it's more about managing people and editing dishes and doing everything that I didn't really ever think that I'd be in so I don't know how I got in this position how I landed in this position but you know again I just feel like everything I wanted to say in retrospect everything I wanted to achieve I've achieved and in sort of a cult an airy sense and we're fortunate enough where there's a lot of talented cooks out there in New York and cooks that are working from four four Momofuku right now where we can provide that opportunity so that's where we're at right now. So hopefully we can provide that opportunity to open more restaurants and have some different ideas going out. So that's sort of the MO for the story. If you rated south if you guys have any questions there are so many things like you me up at night.
The restaurant. Is For instance one of them was. I've been away and I thought that I could think about food sort of theoretically and not touch it but I need to be working with food to come up with ideas and you know I want constant criticism and one of my sous chefs came up with a dish and he emailed it to me and I was like why are we using Nantucket bay scallops. They're going to one it's going to suck and work and there was all this constant e-mail chatter and you know I shouldn't be worrying about that. I should but I can't do anything about it. I'm you know very far away. So it's things like that I have you know one of my cold knees I mean I'll say this we've gotten large enough to get to a point where I don't know everyone's name and I don't know all my cooks names. I co I do cause my little haven where I thought it would be the last restaurant I'd ever open and. It turned out I actually hate working there because
I don't I can't talk to Gaston cook at the same time I have. I don't want to yell at them. And so usually I'm in the corners or behind the scenes or in the background somewhere but I have a call me at call basic like a prep cook. And she threw it back out. So that's something I'm thinking about right now is like how's that schedule going to work out. You know and I have you know we're short staffed at sambar because you know I fired a shot. I want to show Chef de Cuisine. So you know it's like I've replaced him with a cook from CO and it's just a constant balancing act. So I mean it gets very difficult but I guess it's almost like training for a marathon once you think that you can't go any further. You just you hit a wall but you keep on going and going to go and you get used to this pressure and sort of this mental
juggling act and I don't know how I'm going to be able to do it with the fifth restaurant but which is why I'm not the chef I don't want to be the chef there and I'm really not the chef. I don't even know what it means anymore. So I don't know if that answers your question but yes it makes me a basket case. Yeah you know my my favorite dish right now is this puffed egg we're doing it because it was something that eluded me for a while I wanted to do sort of this savory souffle and it's hard to describe but we added methyl cellulose at 50 which is a cola but it sets at 140 degrees. So we use a an a spoon with a gun. Basically it's eggs and a certain percentage of methyl cell. And we cook it in and bake in da she so it's almost like a Japanese dashi Maki tomato but I love that and I love mike to my was but they're always really dense and rich. And this
version is very light. It's almost it's like a sponge sponge e. I don't know the first bite I think people are freaked out but you know that's my favorite dish right now. My basic principles for cooking is no whining you know. I have a high level of integrity and it's really no different than a lot of the top kitchens. We have a high level of accountability. You know nothing makes me. I mean it's weird I guess to say this but I'm very happy when I see you know the cook yelling at another cook for not keeping up their standards for not doing what they're doing. And I you know integrity is important. There's a lot of ways you can cook a piece of an piece of meat or fabricate chicken or whatever many ways
integrity for me is doing it the right way which is usually almost always the hardest way possible. And not getting any credit for it. Not know and knowing that no one's ever going to pat you on the back for it. And that's really hard to find. So for me that's probably the most important principle. You know if you're going to do that then everything else is OK but. You know and there's other things too like I'll freak out for instance. I sambar couple weeks ago I had a cook's night sharpen his knife at 11 o'clock. Right before service on a Monday afternoon. And it was a.m. and I was so upset because nobody called him out on it was like what's he doing prep. What's he doing sharpening his knife you should do that on his time off. And right when I asked him what what's what or why it was the sharpest knife he had excuses like why just cut seven courts and I was like. Then I asked someone else for another knife you know or
have another knife ready. You know don't tell me there's too many people I mean a lot of cooks now I find have an excuse and really it's it's not so different than it was I guess many many years ago. And there's only three things you should know based respond to the chef Yes Chef no chef. I don't know chef said he's like or Basically I fucked up it's never going to happen again. And that didn't happen. So I asked him to leave and he left and that's also surprised you know. I was like. It was like wow I mean he was just like OK OK. But what he remembered to do was clock out. I couldn't believe it. The first question is the co reservation system and it was my idea but someone else executed I was like 12 seats why do we need a reservation as to answer phones. And I guess I would say 30 minutes. I mean even today I think I spent 20 minutes getting reservations for people or you know.
You know we don't take reservations at any of the restaurants but like we can get people tables friends and usually people in the industry. But that kids can be up to an hour and I didn't want Peter Serpico and whoever's running CO at the time to be bogged down with b.s. like that I wanted them to be focused solely on the food and the only way that was going to happen is to create a system that was completely independent of the restaurant. So I was I when it was just sort of make it like this internet free for all. And you know we what I would love to make it six months out. But the problem was after about two weeks we would have we had reservations scalpers and I find scalping to be sort of not only dishonest but just wrong. And so that's why we made it six days out. And I don't know why anyone. Nobody. I know the guy that made the computer program.
There are definitely people out there that can hack it. So I don't know why it hasn't happened yet so thankfully no one's hacked it. But the second question is about our new Russia pash. Ma is Vietnamese for mother and Pash is peach and it's in the chambers hotel. It's our biggest project to date. It's very big for us. It's so we're going to open it up in stages and is going to be French Vietnamese. She intends going to run it. Right now we're serving food in the mezzanine of the hotel. And it is exactly to be that something is going to be Vietnamese with French influence and vice versa. And we're going to try to make it a beast and I mean we're going to have back on our chairs for the first time or so.
You know I guess we're grown up a little bit but you know I'm not that and nervous but I'm not that nervous about it. You know if it if it fails it fails. And so this sort of over the. Is it going to work a bit like even if it doesn't work. Yes it's going to suck but I'm over the end of the world scenario. So the question is about sourcing our food. We try to keep it as local as possible. But that's almost an impossibility in New York particular vegetables. And having traveled around I would rather support small farms around the country which is what we do. You know we buy a tremendous amount from the green market but I would say most of our pork and beef come from Kentucky and Iowa small small farms that need support. And we buy a lot from Nyman. I know that they get a lot of. You know there's been a lot of
hush I say criticism the past couple years but I feel I feel like I can vouch for their pork program. Paul Paul Willis who's in many books and he's just sort of the salt of the Earth type of character. He runs their pork program and these hogs have their they're just it's the right way and fish and stuff we try to keep things local. But New York and then you know what it is in Boston we have a fluke monk. It's really a handful of things. It's difficult and it's difficult right now to keep to keep things fresh in the wintertime it's that's actually when I think we're at our most creative when we have nothing to work with. So when our time is something that I actually sort of look forward to it's like OK we have cabbage and we have cabbage. What are we going to do so I don't gotta eat. Likewise the question is where
were some my favorite places in New York. I really don't go out to eat that much. Not because I'm work during a thing I guess but I try to. I mean I try to go to W. 50 as much as I can but usually I just go to jello realize it or I just eat at the restaurants. And part of it is my just sheer laziness I don't want to go about 14st. You know we've got lightning in a bottle. I'll say when no one was going to work harder than us. I've seen you know my father was in the restaurant business. I had several friends open up restaurants and I just wasn't going to let that. I mean I feel that hard work is a great equalizer.
And like efficient hard work not just looking like you're working hard and I wasn't. If we went out of business in the first time around. 2005 I actually felt good. I was going to feel good about it because like I was like there's no way I could have put in one more second of work. I lived above the restaurant I lived in so I I didn't do anything but work. And for the entire year other than go to the green market which is on 14th I never left this triangle and was even a triangle it was just the green market in back. And you know that's all I can say in a lot of luck you know and surround yourself with very talented people you know and knowing your strengths and weaknesses and letting those talents of people do what they want to do and getting out of their way and just providing some encouraging advice when needed.
So that's what I think. But I think it's a lot a lot of just right place right time too so. That's a loaded question. No. Yes it's about my passion of cooking and I'm fine cooking at home. Even with everything expanding as rapidly as they are and I would tell you no I don't think my passion is is there I mention in the book that I don't burn out I think that. You know sometimes it's there but like there was a period for why where I want to say I was just on fire but it was just like it was just food food food. And that's all I would think about. Maybe that was those were that was a period of my life that will never happen again I don't know. But you know we're going to try to create a R&D lab so we can just work on food and I don't have to talk to anybody. But I don't know. You know it's
much more difficult now. Like I've said this before but you know having worked for a lot of great chefs. I never understood I was always the one who had made fun of them behind their backs because they were never in the kitchen or they were doing an event they were doing something like this for instance and I was my own. My idea of a chef was sort of old school there always at the past they're always working 24/7 and I'm now the ally and now like the lying. I'm the type of chef that the line cooks making fun of things. I don't know. You know it's every time I think I reach a level where I'm comfortable in terms of my work environment and what's happening. Everything changes completely again. So I don't know. You know I really don't know. I would love it to be food and to get excited for food it happens but it's not as it's sporadic before it was like just every day nonstop. But I think that as I don't think that pace that that we
were at. We could sustain. So you know let me just say this I know you but I was on I think Amazon's great and all that but I like cookbooks like you know I don't have an independent store I go to an independent bookstore I go to a New York is kitchen Arts and Letters and it's definitely more expensive but they have a selection that no one else but I know I know I'm just saying it's like it's really important. It's really it's really it's really important to support the smaller guys and small business and it's not like they're making money hand over fist so I always buy my I always buy my cookbooks from kitchen arts and I spend almost all my disposable income there. But you know but again like that sort of ties in weirdly with what your question was was our recipe sort of adaptable for a home. And every every recipe was made in a home kitchen to test so it can be done. Would I do it. Probably not.
But I don't that's a thing as like when I look at cookbooks and a lot of them are in languages I don't read I don't. We made this couple for ourselves and then again to chronicle what happened and the recipes that were you know that being served at that time. Yeah we sort of did it for us and not the not the home cook as it makes sense. And it was a it's not that the home cook can't do it but like I was just looking at it from my perspective it was like when I look at a cookbook a lot of times it's not so and then you get an idea but like I just didn't have an idea of like how it's working. I don't I don't have to make the dish to know it. And I don't cook at home so it's hard for me to to to say that like me. Number one I don't cook at home because my kitchen is ridiculously small. Number two you know if I had a bigger kitchen and if I lived in a house I probably most definitely would cook and if I had a family and kids to feed I'd probably definitely would cook. But it's also hard
when I have these restaurants and they're with full of amazing gradients. And it's really easy to just you know make something at the restaurants and I'm at the restaurants almost all the time anyways. But in terms of the recipes you know people have said they're difficult even the ones I think are simple are difficult. But you know I think that's what makes you a better cook. You know you don't. And like you don't always have to follow follow it perfectly you know you can use it for instance peroration I think that's what I use a lot of cook books for like oh that's a cool idea. Maybe I will copy it exactly but I'll just switch it up a little bit differently so. You know. Yeah. You can cook it for home. I mean we took out recipes that there was no way the home cooked. There are a couple things in there unless you're a water circulator basically $5000 worth of equipment you're not going to be able to make. But we'll have to I mean I think there are things in there that are very useful for the home cook. You know we call one of the ghetto Suvi. You know you can
cook a piece of meat in a plastic bag. Probably just with the hot tap water from your sink and make a slow poached egg very cool things in there I think that are not innovative but practical for the home cook so you might not make the recipe exactly but you might take an idea and and I think that's what I like about cookbooks is you can take an idea and you know mold it to whatever need you need. I think the cookbook that influence of most most cooks Number one I mean of my generation would definitely be Thomas Keller and the French Laundry I think there's no cookbook out there. Or that I mean if you get to me having met Chef Keller and the philosophy of it I mean is that cookbook is a perfect perfect encapsulates his philosophy perfectly. And that was a first cookbook where not only was it like food but it was like oh my god
like what's really. And I think if you ask I mean I'm over beers that cooks all we do is talk about food. We can all. I mean I know we can talk about our favorite picture in that book. The second book would probably be like Marco Pierre White's white heat which is amazing. And then it changes you know those books aren't my favorite books anymore. My favorite book right now is Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck which is now in the cheaper version. But you know it's an amazing story. If you ever get to brainy if you ever make it to Fat Duck it's it's it's an amazing story of like perseverance and just making it happen. And never never quitting. And it's one of the greatest restaurants in the world and that book sort of. Again I think perfectly captures what's happened in the past 15 years in Cook and
with modern techniques and respect for French culture and French food culture specifically and in sort of the history of the fat dockets. It's a pretty pretty wonderful book but for me it's like you know I don't know I'm I just have so many different who bucks I don't even know what to say I don't know where to begin. But usually there are. I think the best cookies are coming from Europe and Japan. You know I mean all of if you're if you want to get to know like you probably the cutting edge deserts you know pockets or blank as books are great and then you've got our Nadia I think texture is book is probably one of the coolest cookbooks of all time particularly because of the CD-ROM. So. So I don't know if that's so he's telling you guys but I get sort of knock it out but you find a chef you're like even if it's another language. You're just like wow that's such an interesting way
that they produce that food so the question is you know being a second generation Korean you know most careen or I mean say Asian parents bringing up kids in America their children really don't want them to follow a path of a line cook. They certainly are happy if they become a doctor or a lawyer or a banker or a you know classic violinist or whatever you know those Their stereotypes are totally true. But you know at first my dad he certainly wasn't happy. You know he worked as entire life to make sure that I wouldn't work in a kitchen. And when I was in I high school I always had this bug to work with. And he by that time he got out of the restaurant business but he told everybody that he he knew all the restaurants in the D.C. Virginia D.C. area
and he would tell all the chefs to tell me I learned this after the fact like not to work in a kitchen. So they scare the hell out of me and I be like OK and I recorded it and I worked as like a busboy or something like that which was totally so something I wouldn't do that. So his goal for me number one was to be a golf player before golf was cool. And I burned out on that and that yeah I was yeah that's a whole nother day. And then. You know I never do that quite well in school so I sort of enjoyed my extracurricular activities in college and I sort of had no other option you know. But now it's weird and cooking has become white collar in itself and I would say you know every day is just going to be funny.
I think for funny every kitchen I have I can name I think almost every kitchen in in New York there's a Stanford Amherst Williams or an Ivy League grad and they all are one of the worst cooks you've ever seen because they just can't do it. And I know it's frustrating for them because they're usually you know achieve this and that but you know cooking is one of those things where you know they got it or you don't. And just because you're smart doesn't think it doesn't make you a really good cook. And it's weird just that you know like I have a I mean even weird like I have I just got the resume another day for someone from Stanford and she wants to work in the office and I'm like why. So it's very strange but it's. It's weird you know. Yeah I can name. There are a lot of cooks that have ridiculous resumes and I don't understand it
- Harvard Book Store
- WGBH Forum Network
- David Chang: Momofuku Cookbook
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Restaurateur and new cookbook author David Chang discusses his new book, "Momofuku", based on the cuisine at his four beloved New York City restaurants. Never before has there been a phenomenon like Momofuku. A once-unrecognizable word, it's now synonymous with the award-winning restaurants of the same name in New York City: Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Ko, and Milk Bar. Chef David Chang has single-handedly revolutionized cooking in America with his use of bold Asian flavors and impeccable ingredients, his mastery of the humble ramen noodle, and his thorough devotion to pork. Momofuku is both the story and the recipes behind the cuisine that has changed the modern-day culinary landscape. Chang relays the tale of his unwitting rise to superstardom, which, though wracked with mishaps, happened at light speed. And the dishes shared in this book are coveted by all who have dined--or yearned to--at any Momofuku location.
- Episode Description
- This item is part of the Korean Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
- Food and Cooking
- Culture & Identity
- Media type
- Moving Image
Writer: Chang, David
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: cf419fa8a7b1e6b774f00f2b05d2866e7594076a (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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- Chicago: “Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; David Chang: Momofuku Cookbook,” 2009-12-10, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 29, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-qf8jd4px5c.
- MLA: “Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; David Chang: Momofuku Cookbook.” 2009-12-10. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 29, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-qf8jd4px5c>.
- APA: Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; David Chang: Momofuku Cookbook. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-qf8jd4px5c