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Chef Inspired - David Chang

By, Margaret Massey

David Chang, an innovator in the restaurant world who brought his Korean/Asian/American fusion cuisine to the masses with the success of his first restaurant, Momofuku NYC, has remained steadfast and relevant throughout this past decade; opening several other Momofuku locations, among other restaurants, all over the world. Success has also brought other newfangled ventures to the table for Chang, including his Netflix series, Ugly Delicious and Majordomo Media which produces his podcast, The David Chang Show. He has become an unstoppable force.

As a seasoned chef, he has been constantly evolving and learning through trial and error, what works and what doesn’t, in the restaurant business. Adaptation is something he has come to learn over the years. It is his ability to adapt and learn from making mistakes, coupled with his ingenuity and work ethic, that have made Chang the success he is today.

Both of his parents instilled into him at a young age, the importance of having a good work ethic. According to them, hard work and persistence is the key to becoming successful in life, period. His father, who immigrated from North Korea, arrived to the U.S. with only $50 to his name. He worked hard, starting from the bottom as a dishwasher, before moving up to become the owner of several restaurants. He often says he owes his success, in part, to his parent’s unrelenting ambition and drive.

Success, however, didn’t come without its challenges. Chang’s workaholic compulsions tied in with clinical depression, are things he’s had to work hard to overcome, over the past several years. Chang began to take his mental health seriously after the sudden loss of his friend and mentor, Anthony Bourdain, this past June. He was inspired, in the midst of this loss, to lay all of his personal struggles bare: admitting that you never really know what’s going on with someone behind closed doors.

Sitting down at a table full of delicious food can open us up to serious discussions in a way that other means of conversation cannot. Chang takes a meal as simple as a pot of Gumbo, and turns it into a conversation about immigration and racism surrounding shrimp boaters on the Gulf Coast: and people listen.

Food has somehow become the perfect instrument to conduct the conversations that we otherwise would try to ignore. Chang states that food has the innate capability of showing our own willingness to be open to these types of conversations; people who are open to trying a dish that is foreign to them are generally more open minded when it comes to hot topic discussions. That says a lot about the power of food.

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