Does David Chang tell a story through his food?

I don’t try to tell stories, but certain food, certain chefs can make poetic food. It’s like a dance. It’s a progression when you just see it. You’re just navigating through this on cruise control, and you’re just eating, and you’re in wonder.

Food can be challenging at the same time. I think the chef that best embodies this is Andoni [Luis Aduriz] at Mugaritz in San Sebastian, where literally, you sit down in this beautiful restaurant and you pick up a card, and one is pleasure and one is pain — 180 minutes of pleasure, 180 minutes of pain, basically. And it can straddle both, just like the poetic and abstract can straddle both.

You can eat a dish and not really quite get it. It could piss you off. It can evoke an emotion. It can be delicious at the same time. Andoni has a very famous starter dish of local rocks. They’re gray, and in the middle of the plate they put a side of aioli, garlic-infused mayo. And you’re like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” You can’t tell what’s a potato and what’s a rock. So over the years, they’ve had to tell people what’s a rock and what’s a potato to distinguish it, because people were biting into rocks. The weight and feel is the exact same — they’re hot rocks or potatoes. That’s a pretty extreme example of the pleasure or pain, but the whole idea is that it’s delicious, but at the same time, it can be completely abstract.

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