David Chang is a chef, restaurateur and TV personality. 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.
Chang was born to a North Korean father and South Korean mother in Washington DC, and raised in Arlington, Virginia. His parents owned two bistros in DC, but Chang initially took a job in finance in New York before finally deciding to become a chef.
Remaining in New York, Chang enrolled in the French Culinary Institute while working part time at The Mercer Kitchen. After two years working at Tom Colicchio’s award-winning restaurant Craft, he moved to Japan to study ramen, supporting himself by teaching English and working in various izakaya and ramen restaurants. On his return to New York, he worked at Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud, before finally setting up on his own in 2004, with what would become the first restaurant in the Momofuku chain, Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Momofuku has since expanded to include restaurants, bars and takeaways across the US and abroad, with outlets in Canada and Australia. In 2009, Chang wrote a cookbook entitled Momofuku, including recipes from Momofuku restaurants, including his famous pork buns, along with a behind-the-scenes look at the meteoric rise of the Momofuku brand and the culinary philosophy behind the celebration of cultural fusion that is Chang’s take on Modern Asian cuisine.
Chang is also the presenter of the critically acclaimed Netflix Original documentary series Ugly Delicious, in which he travels the globe in search of the most delicious and satisfying food from different cultures or mixes of cultures. Drawing from a diverse range of culinary traditions is a theme that is evident in Chang’s own cooking, and is clearly a concept that is close to his heart. Ugly Delicious has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy award and has currently run for two series on Netflix.
Photo by: Courtesy of Netflix
In 2020, Chang became the first celebrity on ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to win a million dollars, which he donated to Southern Smoke, a charity providing relief to workers in the food and drink industry during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Chang’s own restaurants have been hit by the pandemic, with both Nishi and CCDC closing their doors last year, and Ssäm Bar due to merge with Bar Wayō at some point in 2021.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 has been a busy year for Chang, with the release of his memoir Eat a Peach in September. The book includes a frank discussion of his experiences growing up as an immigrant, of his battles with depression and his friendship with fellow chef and depression sufferer, Anthony Bourdain.
Chang is currently owner or co-owner of 16 restaurants, including fine-dining restaurants, bars, takeout and two multi-city chains. The majority of these are owned under the Momofuku brand, which now counts 14 restaurants following the closure of Nishi and CCDC due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Momofuku Noodle Bar is the original Momofuku venue, opened in New York in 2004. It specialises in noodles, steamed breads and buns.
Momofuku Noodle Bar Toronto is similar to its sister restaurant in New York, but with a focus on the produce and flavours of the Toronto area.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar is the brand’s second restaurant, which opened in New York in 2006. Executive chef Max Ng serves a diverse menu, blending influences from his Singaporean heritage with the venue’s New York location
Momofuku Ko was opened in New York in 2008 and features a set multi-course tasting menu. Ko has held two Michelin stars since 2009, and was featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2018.
Momofuku Seiōbo is located in The Star Sydney, Australia’s second largest casino complex. Seiōbo offers a multi-course tasting menu inspired by local produce and the diverse backgrounds of the culinary team.
Momofuku Kāwi, in New York, features dishes by executive chef Eunjo ‘Jo’ Park, drawing on her fine-dining training and Korean heritage.
Momofuku Kōjin, Ontario, Canada, serves modern cuisine influenced by chef Eva Chin’s upbringing in Singapore and Hawaii.
Momofuku Majordōmo, Los Angeles features cuisine inspired by the produce and diverse food cultures of LA.
Momofuku Majordōmo Meat and Fish is located on the casino floor of the Palazzo in Los Angeles, and features food inspired by a diverse range of food traditions.
Moon Palace is a casual eatery serving breakfast and snacks, and also located on the casino floor of the Palazzo.
Momofuku Las Vegas was opened in 2017, and serves food inspired by US, Korean and Japanese cuisine.
Momofuku Bang Bar, in New York, offers takeout cooked on the vertical spit, and bang bread.
Momofuku Bar Wayō is a New York cocktail bar serving seasonal cocktails, beers and snacks. In 2020 Momofuku announced plans to move their second restaurant Ssäm Bar from its East Village location to be joined with Wayō. The new restaurant will retain elements of both venues, but will trade under Ssäm Bar, as the more established name.
Peach Mart is a New York takeout shop selling sandwiches, kimbap and snacks.
Fried chicken joint Fuku is also a part of the Momofuku brand, but has proved so popular that it has now become a chain in its own right. The idea started as a simple fried chicken sandwich, available at Momofuku Noodle Bar, and now includes a range of fried chicken dishes available at Fuku venues in New York, Miami and DC, plus over 20 concessions throughout the US.
Chang also has a financial interest in Christina Tosi’s chain of dessert and bakery restaurants Milk Bar, having provided the seed money when the first Milk Bar was opened. Chang co-owns Milk Bar with chef-proprietor Tosi, but the chain is not a part of the Momofuku brand, and is run independently by Tosi.
David Chang currently holds two Michelin stars for his New York restaurant Ko, which was opened in 2008, and received the two-star award in the following year’s Michelin guide. The restaurant has retained its two-star status ever since, and is currently one of only thirteen two-star restaurants in the city. The 2020 guide praises the coherence of Ko’s multi-course tasting menu, saying that ‘each course presented features a thoughtful, appropriate and linear progression.’
If you want to try your hand at cooking delicious David Chang cuisine at home, why not try some of these online recipes?
Bo Ssäm is a traditional Korean pork dish, served at the original Momofuku Noodle Bar. It features slow-roasted pork with oysters, kimchi, ginger and a spicy umami ssäm sauce. We love this recipe from Epicurious. To make the ssäm sauce, click here.
Created to celebrate the release of his Netflix original documentary, Ugly Delicious, Chang’s recipe for bacon fried rice adds a touch of saltiness to this classic Chinese dish. You can see the full recipe online via the People magazine website.
If you’re looking for something vegetarian, Chang’s maple root-vegetable stir-fry with Sesame is an unconventional take on Korean stir fry that combines the earthiness of root vegetables with the sweetness of maple syrup and a touch of salty soy. The recipe can be found online at Food and Wine.