Back of the House

Encounter David Chang in This Week’s ‘New Yorker’

David Chang just can't take it easy.
David Chang just can’t take it easy. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Late in Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of David Chang, the Momofuku man makes a confession: “I’m slowly realizing that I’m a highly complex individual,” he says. It’s not an insight likely to surprise readers of the piece, which will appear in The New Yorker this week. Chang comes across as brilliant, inspired, and high-strung to the point of actually giving himself shingles, a diagnosis made by a doctor after the chef literally incapacitated himself with worry and anxiety. But if you want to get a sense of how intense Chang really is, just read the passage where he reads the riot act to a group of hapless Noodle Bar cooks, who had committed offenses ranging from using tongs on the family-meal chicken (a Chang bête noire) to cutting up the fish cakes for the ramen carelessly.

“I haven’t been spending that much time in this restaurant because of all the shit that’s been going on, but the past two days I’ve had aneurysms because I’ve been so upset at the kitchen. On the cooks’ end, I question your integrity. Are you willing to fucking sacrifice yourself for the food? Yesterday, we had an incident with fish cakes: they weren’t properly cut. Does it really matter in the bowl of ramen? No. But for personal integrity as a cook, this is what we do, and I don’t think you guys fucking care enough.”

The article made us feel a combination of fear and admiration for the man, which is more than we can say about most chefs. And there’s much more to learn about Chang and the Momofuku empire in the piece — talk of a mega–Momofuku empire in Vegas, for example, and for those of you who can’t get enough Ko news, a close-up view from the inside of the days leading up to the restaurant’s opening.

Encounter David Chang in This Week’s ‘New Yorker’