Chef Profile: David Chang
An American restaurateur, author, podcaster, and television personality, David Chang is the man responsible for the way America eats. Back in 2004, he launched a ramen joint in NYC’s East Village called Momofuku Noodle Bar that ushered in a style of restaurants that are now recognizable everywhere. The star of this restaurant was his signature dish, a pork belly bun that then went on to be imitated by chefs and cooks across the country.
His little regard for existing conventions, unabashed loudness, and maniacal attention to detail and deliciousness made Chang a star in the culinary world. Today, he’s attached to some 15 restaurants spanning NYC to Toronto to Sydney, is the figurehead of a media and entertainment company, and thanks in part to well-reviewed shows on PBS and Netflix, has become a recognizable public figure.
Want to know more about the story that made this man a legend in his field?
Read on and you will not be disappointed.
- Quick Facts About David Chang
- About David Chang’s Life
- David Chang's Personality
- Television Shows
- Media Appearances
- Charity Work
- Fun Facts about David Chang
- Social Presence
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Quick Facts About David Chang
Name: David Chang (Korean: Chang Seok-ho)
Date of Birth: August 5, 1977
Birthplace: Arlington, Virginia
Partner: Grace Seo Chang
Name of Restaurants:
- Momofuku Noodle Bar
- Momofuku Ssäm Bar
- Momofuku Ko
- Má Pêche
- Momofuku Milk Bar
- Momofuku Nishi
2. About David Chang’s Life
Born to Korean parents Woo Chung Hi “Sherri” and Joseph P. Chang, David grew up in Arlington, Virginia with two older brothers and one sister. Chang’s parents owned a golfing goods warehouse and two restaurants. Because of these influences, as a child, Chang was a competitive golfer who actively participated in several junior tournaments.
After attending Georgetown Prep and then Trinity College (where he majored in religious studies), Chang went on to pursue a variety of jobs, including teaching English in Japan, then bussing tables and holding finance positions in New York City.
After all this hustle, Chang decided to attend the French Culinary Institute - now known as the International Culinary Center - in New York City in 2000. While training there, he also worked part-time at the Mercer Kitchen in Manhattan and got a job answering phones at Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant.
Here, he worked for two years and then moved back to Japan where he worked at a small soba shop, followed by a restaurant in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt Hotel. On returning to the U.S., David joined the forces of his idol Alex Lee and worked at Café Boulud. But apparently, Chang soon grew completely dissatisfied with the whole fine dining scene.
Wanting to do something for himself, in 2004, Chang opened his first of many restaurants, Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village. While Chang’s website states that Momofuku means “lucky peach”, the restaurant also shares a name with Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles.
The chef and founder cooked in a small open kitchen, with diners watching from bar stools. Here, he made rich broth from roasted pork bones, chicken, and bacon dashi and filled bowls with noodles, pork belly, pork shoulder, and poached eggs. Reviews drove great buzz that ultimately helped Momofuku become a 15-restaurant global empire.
Initially, Chang spent three years in survival mode, working constantly and rarely leaving the neighborhood. He says it was the biggest gamble he ever made. Today, his Noodle Bar’s commitment to excellence, a fun vibe, and affordable prices have attracted other chefs and won critical praise.
Chang who is a Korean-American is mindful of how few Asian success stories there are outside of the technology, finance, and medical fields. David remembers not fitting in while growing up and as an adult, was angered by Asian stereotypes. The cuisine he serves is his main contribution to the conversation about race as he wants to raise cultural awareness and appreciation through food.
Later in June 2015, Chang went on to launch Fuku, a chain of fast-food restaurants specializing in fried chicken sandwiches. In 2016, innovation took over and Chang launched his first digital-only restaurant, which offers a menu only for delivery in Midtown East and takes orders via an app named Ando.
Taking his passions in the culinary world to the next level, the star chef also participated in a project hosted by a Silicon Valley startup named Impossible Foods. He prepared food that was later added to the menu of one of his restaurants Momofuku Nishi, as a partnership between Impossible Food and David Chang.
The success of his restaurant empire led him to announce the opening of his first West Coast restaurant in Los Angeles in 2017. However, you always win some and lose some. Sadly in June 2018, Má Pêche closed after operating for 8 years. This did not stop the chef and he went on to open a 250-seat Majordomo Meat & Fish restaurant in The Palazzo tower of The Venetian, Las Vegas.
In March 2020, as COVID-19 began taking over and affecting every aspect of life, Momofuku restaurant group decided to temporarily close its restaurants. While later that year, they decided to consolidate some restaurants and re-open them, he had to permanently close Momofuku Nishi in Manhattan and Momofuku CCDC in Washington D.C. In 2021, they also closed Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney.
Over the years, Chang has earned the reputation of “the bad boy of ramen” but on stage, there’s barely a flicker of bravado. Instead, he doles out life advice that spans topics ranging from executive coaching to the creativity conundrum posed by his famous steamed buns. To hear such wisdom makes it clear how Momofuku has become a household name, why his show Ugly Delicious s a Netflix sensation, and why his food is just so darn good!
3. David Chang's Personality
For those who’ve closely followed Chang’s journey in the cooking world, it’s impossible to divorce the chef and restaurateur’s ascent from the image that helped propel him there- angry, effusive, self-aware, self-righteous, and disarmingly candid. While is the avatar embraced by the media, it is largely created by Chang himself.
As a canny narrator of his own story, he has often declared that he is mystified by his success. In many interviews, we also see David swearing he has no idea what he’s doing.
But if massive success can occasionally be written off as a happy accident, Chang’s achievements are far too extensive to ever be discounted as dumb luck. David believes that being a great leader is a lot like being a good parent. In an interview, he also reveals that initially, his employees were afraid to talk to him and that his temper stressed people out.
Over time, chef Chang evolved and now, when he sees a failure in the kitchen, he tries to help his employees learn from it, but withholding judgment and communicating more clearly is a daily struggle.
David is widely known as a BIG personality in the food world. He regards himself as “not a happy guy” and frequently is regarded as a “bad boy” who drops the notorious “F” word a lot. But he’s also known to mentor lots of young chefs and be open about his struggles with his mental health.
4. Television Shows
HBO’s Treme - He appeared on the 5th episode of the show with fellow chefs Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, and Wylie Dufresne. His presence on the show was expended in the 2nd season.
Top Chef: All Stars - Chang served as a guest judge on the reality show.
Masterchef Australia - He was a guest judge on the show.
The Mind of a Chef: Season 1 - Chang hosted the 1st season of this PBS food series which was executive produced by Anthony Bourdain.
|Event 2 - Chang appeared on a skit on the Deltron 3030 album, a popular hip-hop group.|
|Documentary Now! - He guest-starred as himself in the IFC series and was a part of the episode “Juan Likes Rice & Chicken”.|
Ugly Delicious - Chang's popularity grew when he created, produced, and starred in this Netflix original series.
Worth It - David appeared in 2 episodes of this Buzzfeed web series.
The Chef Show - In the same year, he also appeared in this Netflix series that was produced by his friends Roy Choi and Jon Favreau.
Breakfast, Lunch and, Dinner - He produces this Netflix original with guest stars including Seth Rogan and Kate McKinnon.
Blue’s Clues & You! - Chang also appeared in this series in the episode “Welcome to Blue’s Bistro” in the Mail time segment.
The Next Thing You Eat - David was the host of this documentary film series.
It is not a hidden fact that this Michelin star chef has also written books that not only talk about the recipes he’s innovated by also about his crazy journey from the bottom to the top of the culinary industry. Here’s an overview of some of his literary creations:
Books by David Chang
About the Book
|Eat a Peach: A Memoir||
This is an intimate account of the making of chef David Chang, the story of the modern restaurant world that he helped shape, and how he discovered that success can be much harder to understand than failure.
September 8, 2020
|Cooking at Home: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave)||
From figuring out the best ways to use frozen vegetables to learning when to ditch recipes and just taste and adjust your way to a terrific meal no matter what, this is David and co-author Priya’s guide to substituting, adapting, shortcutting, and sandbagging—like par cooking chicken in a microwave before blasting it with flavor in a four-minute stir-fry or a ten-minute stew.
October 26, 2021
|Momofuku: A Cookbook||
Chef David Chang single-handedly revolutionized cooking in America and beyond with his use of bold Asian flavors and impeccable ingredients, his mastery of the humble ramen noodle, and his thorough devotion to pork.
This New York Times bestseller shares the story and the recipes behind the chef and cuisine that changed the modern-day culinary landscape.
October 27, 2009
It is a creation of David Chang, cowriter Peter Meehan, Anthony Bourdain, Wylie Dufresne, Ruth Reichl, and Harold McGee. The result of this collaboration is a melange of travelogue, essays, art, photography, and rants in a full-color, meticulously designed format.
The theme of Issue 1 is Ramen.
The theme of Issue 2 is The Sweet Spot, which reached #3 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The theme of Issue 3 is Chefs and Cooks, was released on March 13 and was also a New York Times bestseller.
Each subsequent issue has continued to focus on a particular theme.
July 12, 2011
6. Media Appearances
Chang is known for his "bad-boy attitude" for having no reservations or vegetarian options. This led to him stirring up controversy. In 2009, Chang had a conversation with Anthony Bourdain where he made dismissive remarks about California chefs and said things like “They don’t manipulate food, they just put figs on a plate.”
The Momofuku founder also became the first celebrity chef to win the $1 million prize on ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in November 2020. Chang’s million dollars went to a charity of his choice. He picked the Southern Smoke Foundation, a Houston-based crisis relief organization for people working in the hospitality industry.
Chef Chang also made headlines when he spoke openly about being bipolar, battling depression, and having suicidal thoughts. This inspired a lot of people to discuss stigma, seek treatment, and deal with mental illness just like you’d deal with any other physical illness.
7. Charity Work
Chang put together his own fundraiser for charities currently fighting a previous administration. In 2019 the chef donated profits from all his restaurants to City Harvest, Planned Parenthood, RAICES, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Sierra Club. These charities cover impoverished New Yorkers, women’s rights, abortion rights, immigration rights, gun legislation, and the environment.
He serves on the Food Council at City Harvest and the Culinary Council at Food Bank for New York City, two hunger-relief organizations. He is also a member of the board of trustees at MOFAD (the Museum of Food and Drinks) in New York City.
Chef Chang also made history, becoming the first-ever celebrity to win a million dollars on ABC game show 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' as mentioned above, and then give it away.
8. Fun Facts About Chang
Fun Fact #1: He is a star of more than one show
He rose to fame on Netflix’s show Ugly Delicious and went on to star in his newest show, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. Very soon he’s going to warm more fame because he’s creating shows with Chrissy Teigen. The pair announced they'd be collaborating on all sorts of food shows for Hulu, including one called Family Style.
Fun Fact #2: Apparently, he’s an amazing golfer
It is a lesser-known fact that when David was younger, he was kind of incredible at golf. He was so good that his dad wanted him to take a swing at golf pro but he quit.
Fun Fact #3: He’s a brand new dad
Davis and his wife welcomed their extremely cute son, Hugo in early 2019. It was Chrissy who spilled the beans publicly that Grace was pregnant.
Fun Fact #4: Wagamama is what inspired him
The chef’s first venture, Momofuku Noodle Bar was inspired by Wagamama, an uber-popular ramen chain in London.
Fun Fact #5: He is pals with tons of celebrities
Besides his friendship with Chrissy Teigen, celebs like Nick Kroll and the late Anthony Bourdain have graced David’s Instagram feed. He also pairs up with Seth Rogen, Lena Waithe, and Kate McKinnon for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner episodes.
Fun Fact #6: He has quite the reputation in the food world
As mentioned earlier, he is widely known to have a big personality in the food world and has been a great mentor to lots of young, budding chefs.
Fun Fact #7: He is seriously educated
David attended Trinity College, where he majored in Religious Studies. He then worked in finance for a bit before deciding that his passion was for food. He went on to attend the International Culinary Center.
Fun Fact #8: He loves peaches
The man is obsessed with all things peachy. The man’s favorite album is “Eat a Peach” by Allman Brothers and his first restaurant is named Momofuku, which means “lucky peach”. Chang also started a publication called Lucky Peach as well. If this was not enough, he also recently opened a store called Peach Mart. So as you can see, the dude loves peaches!
Fun Fact #9: He hates fancy beer
Unlike hoity-toity celebrity chefs, Chang has made it very clear in an interview with GQ that he hates fancy beer. He once wrote that his favorite beer is Bud Light.
Fun Fact #10: He has his own Podcast
David hosts a podcast called The Dave Chang Show, where he interviews guests and gives his take on things like food trends and pop culture.
9. Social Presence
Chef Chang is always innovating and creating new dishes, crafting delicious recipes, and sharing his journey with his fans via social media. If you’re a fan who wants to stay up to date with everything that’s going on with Chef David follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
10. Frequently Asked Questions
Does David Chang have Michelin stars?
In 2009, Momofuku Ko was awarded two Michelin stars, which it has retained each year since 2010.
Why is David Chang famous?
He is the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group and has been instrumental in reimagining Modern Asian cuisine. His impact on the culinary world has been such that he was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2010.
How much is David Chang worth?
David Chang is an American chef and entrepreneur who has a net worth of 20 million dollars.
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Written by Himani Vaid
Toronto-based food nerd turned food storyteller, Himani is a connoisseur of all things delish. Currently, busy thinking about what to eat next.