Has David Chang served any unusual dishes in his restaurants?
An example of one of those dishes we came up with is this uni/tapioca/tofu dish. It wasn’t in the book. We served it, but it was such a unique dish for us. It was a play on textures (soft and crunchy) and temperature (cold and hot). Also in terms of flavor, spicy and the creaminess of the uni, it was something that you wouldn’t necessarily see in our restaurant. It’s not on the menu anymore, but that was a dish that I worked on and I just thought, “Well, instead of trying to set the tofu, we’ll just make it sort of like this amoeba-like foam.” And it worked. It was a dish that I remember very clearly putting it on as a special and watching people’s reactions, hoping they didn’t think it was disgusting. I’d say 90 percent of the people really enjoyed it, loved it, but some of the people didn’t get it.
Another example would be the frozen foie gras dish that we do at Ko. Everyone is pretty familiar with foie gras. A torchon of foie gras, which is cured foie, is very classic; but to serve it in a very austere way, just frozen shavings of foie gras over a Microplane, so it looks like a pile of snow, and to eat that… and underneath that you have a Riesling gelée, and a pine nut brittle, lychee fruit. It was just served in a different way, but to say that it was frozen in the manner in which we served it, I was like, “I know that it tastes good, but how are people going to accept it?” It’s more of the acceptance of things, because I think that chefs are creatures of habit and we are sort of masochists because we want approval. We need instant approval. It’s that fear of rejection, I think, that fear of failure. It’s that fear of letting someone down — whether it’s your colleague or a paying customer — that drives us, or certainly drives me. You don’t want to let anyone down.