In a new episode of The Dave Chang Show, the emotional chef pays tribute to Bourdain, who he called everyone’s “cool uncle, a sage, an oracle,” and reveals that he has been seeing a psychiatrist since 2003.
Chang says many of his problems stem from a childhood where he was driven very hard and nothing he did was ever good enough and that he eventually got into cooking, partly, as a way to achieve instant gratification. He says he struggles with depression, issues of self-confidence, paranoia and imposter syndrome.
One way to deal with his depression, which Chang calls a “spiritual cancer” and a “complex organism,” is to set himself unrealistic and ridiculous goals, throwing himself into work, like with the opening of Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004. Chang says he was able to put so much into Momofuku because he didn’t expect to live much beyond 35 and even didn’t sign a lease extension for that very reason.
“Momofuku is a vehicle to fight depression,” he says. ‘I made every decision like it was going to be a one-way ticket. What’s the point of having money if I’m going to be dead anyway?” he thought.
Stress, drinking and “the trauma of cooking” only exacerbated his problems however. And he couldn’t enjoy his success: “The reality is you can have all the perfection in the kitchen, achieve your wildest dreams … but you cannot find order in your personal life.”
Chang also uses the episode to have a pop at the cost of healthcare in the US, noting that he could only really get the regular help he needed after he had become successful.
Chang joins other chefs like Daniel Patterson, Sean Brock and Chris Cosentino in publically opening up about their struggles in the hope that it might inspire others to seek the help they need and remove the stigma of mental health, not only in the industry, but in society at large.