On hand at this weekend's Slow Food Nation was Momofuku chef David Chang, whose self-described "vaguely Asian" New York restaurants have catapulted him to celebrity status in the past several years. In a guest appearance at the festival's Green Kitchen, Chang showed the audience Momofuku's twist on caprese salad. As he was prepping for his demonstration, he was kind enough to talk to me about slow food, fast food (Chipotle and In-N-Out are his favorites), future plans, and his latest infatuation. To read what he had to say, read more.
YumSugar: Why did you get involved with Slow Food Nation?
DC: Alice [Waters] asked me to be a part of it. I've gotten to know a lot of work that she does outside of Chez Panisse. I'm not affiliated [with Slow Food] . . . but they're trying to preserve certain traditions. At the very least, it's a really amazing opportunity for people to try new things.
YS: What do you think of those who see Slow Food as an expensive cause for food snobs?
DC: I understand both points. They’re not trying to hurt people. They just want to share. It's a byproduct of American culture — the fact that we don’t have a food culture — to enjoy food is to be elitist. To not eat fast food means that you’re in a different income bracket.
YS: Where will you dine while you're in town?
DC: I'm going to eat at Michael Mina and Quince. I want to check out Daniel Patterson's restaurant [Coi]. My good friend Ed Carew opened up the Cottage Eatery with his wife in Tiburon. Tonight I'm going to go to A16. Tomorrow we're going to Chris Cosentino's restaurant [Incanto], and then we're going to Napa. I always like Bouchon, and I'd love to check out Jeremy [Fox]'s new restaurant Ubuntu.
YS: What do you consider to be your greatest culinary accomplishment?
DC: I don’t know. Honestly, [the fame], it's absurd and comedic. I’m just that dude!
YS: What's next for you? There's been lots of speculation.
DC: Maybe trying to unravel all of this? We’re doing lunch for Ko, renovating Ssäm Bar, and redoing the menu at Noodle Bar. We’re doing an expansion of soft-serve, bakery, and dessert at the Ssäm Bar. That's a lot. So while there’s all this talk about future projects, that’s certainly flattering, but we’re just trying to keep it running.
YS: Noodles or rice?
DC: Rice. Right now I’m infatuated with rice. As much as I love noodles, it’s the year of the rice for me, for all of the [Momofuku] restaurants. Nobody knows anything about rice. Think about Vietnamese cuisine. How the hell do you make rice with no technology? It’s pretty impressive.
YS: Top Chef or Iron Chef?
DC: Neither. I’d like Iron Chef more if Alex Lee never lost. Alex Lee may be the greatest chef America never knew about — maybe the greatest chef America ever produced — and he lost, which is a bunch of bulls**t. Top Chef is great. I used to watch it, but once you start seeing people that you know on TV, the contestants, it's like watching a train wreck. I don’t want to watch it.
YS: Tokyo or Paris?
DC: F**k, that's hard. I'm gonna say Paris.
YS: Truffles or foie gras?
DC: What kind of truffles? We'll go with truffles — no, both. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
YS: Amuse-bouche or dessert?
YS: Chinese takeout or pizza delivery?
DC: I love both! Chinese takeout.