David Chang is many things: a James Beard award-winning chef, a two Michelin star restaurateur, and one of the main forces changing how we eat today. However, above all else, he’s a man who loves to speak his mind. Never one to shy away from his own opinions, Chang isn’t interested in the most recent trends and what’s currently being deemed “hip” in the culinary world, even if Chang is in some indirect way responsible for the very movement he aims to distance himself from. Conversely, Chang is interested in the simple joys of meat on a stick and finding new ways to transform the most ubiquitous and humble of ingredients.
A man of contradictions and an insatiable appetite to experiment, David Chang is one of the true tastemakers influencing how, what, and where we eat. With his rise from humble line cook to a gastronomic force, Chang has used his position to make an endless number of interesting, if not controversial, statements regarding his tastes and our relationships with food and drink. Here are some of our favorites.
One of the bluntest and most dividing statements attributed to David Chang came in his monthly GQ column from last October when he declared that Bud Light was his favorite beer. On top of that, Chang explained that beer snobs were in fact worse than both wine and cheese enthusiasts; however, he did relent and explain that even the finest brewed stouts and saisons do have their time and place.
A combination of nostalgia and his belief that cheap, lights beers pair best with food, much like champagne, Chang holds strong that he’d take a Tecate or Tiger over a microbrew any day of the week. In fact, he loves cheap beer so much that the King of Beers even took notice.
Excluding his now-legendary pork buns, there is no food more closely associated with David Chang than ramen. The king of Japanese soups was the centerpiece of Noodle Bar’s initial rise, acted as the main ingredient in the Chang-starring premiere season of The Mind of a Chef, and ramen even received its own dedicated month when Lucky Peach, a magazine co-founded by Chang, launched its online version earlier this year.
Needless to say, ramen is near and dear to Chang and because of the endless bowls he’s consumed, he knows with confidence that as ramen has become more popular, the quality has dropped off. Although it would be easy to blame lazy cooks or inferior quality, Chang believes that in reality, the Internet is to blame. “Now the Internet’s changed everything. People can get all the information they want instantaneously, and that has killed innovation in ramen.” We reached peak ramen and now we’re down the other side of the mountain. Alas, at least it will be a tasty descent into noodle darkness.
Although David Chang claims to not get behind many food trends, even he can’t hide from the imminent takeover of food courts and halls on American shores. A format that was once relegated to malls across the country, food courts and halls are slowly taking over major American cities, one tray at a time. As he mentioned in GQ last month, “That concept might sound weird to Americans, but elsewhere in the world, fancy food halls have long been culinary meccas.”
Starting with Mario Batali’s Eataly in 2010, New York (in particular) is being invaded by an onslaught of single-food department stores and food courts, including Anthony Bourdain’s long-planned 10,000 square foot food hall, recently dubbed Bourdain Market. This is happening and, as Chang says, we should all be thankful. “The gastronomic future is everywhere else, starting just up the escalators from the Hot Topic, right across from the J.Crew.”
Maybe the most widely known and controversial of David Chang’s opinions is his strong distaste for turkey. “I think it’s gross,” he tells Chef Sean Brock when they make Hot Browns amidst some very serious hangovers on The Mind of a Chef. “Turkeys, they’re just dumb birds.” Right you are Chef Chang, but even the dumbest of birds has its merits.
Chang argues that the dark meat can be acceptable and that turkey skin, when treated correctly, can be a delicious thing. However, when it comes to Thanksgiving, he would much rather go for his mom’s legendary short ribs than turkey any day of the week. Additionally, Chang suggests trying capons or Cornish game hens on Thanksgiving if your family is completely against the idea of skipping the poultry to celebrate, uh, whatever it is that Thanksgiving represents. Anyone for roasted turkey skin?
After a decade of turning fine dining on its head by going bolder, louder, and more global than anyone ever had prior, David Chang is embracing the French temples of gastronomy that his empire has aimed to tear down. As he puts it in an interview with GQ last December, “We’ve overcorrected, and now we are in danger of losing all contact with the mother ship.”
What Chang truly admires about the French greats isn’t so much the food itself, though. His real love of all things Franco comes from the dream of the chefs to do something truly great with the dining experience. Chang still sees chefs aiming for the dream of greatness, but not like before. Not like the days before fine dining went casual. Not like the days before his Momofuku empire dismantled it, one dish at a time.
Max Bonem is an eater and home cook who is more than likely hungry at this very moment. He enjoys writing about food and talking to other people about what they’re finding most appetizing at the moment. Holler at him on Twitter @ChazarBlog.