How did David Chang become a chef?

My cooking career has taken a nonlinear journey. I really got into cooking because I thought it was honest and it was beautiful. And then you learn that it’s a very competitive environment and that you want to be as good as the best chefs around, and I quickly saw that I was probably being very hard on myself that I wasn’t as good as my heroes. There just seemed to be so many great cooks around that I wanted to take a different path.

I didn’t want to go fine dining — fine dining was where you could eat good food outside of ethnic food — so I decided to study ramen, and then I opened up a ramen bar after working for some very famous chefs here in New York. I was somehow in a position where I was trying to avoid everything that was fine dining or the world of fine dining. I am now in the dead center of it with, I guess, some of the accolades and the criticisms… and just nobody would have planned it this way.

Opening Noodle Bar, Ssäm Bar, was not how anyone would do anything, particularly how we did things. It was completely unconventional. I think it was also around the time, around 2004, right when people started to read the Internet for food or whatnot, and we were probably one of the first restaurants that had a live feed to the audience. There were constant updates so people could see us grow and make mistakes. There was no hiding period; there was no trying to figure it out.

Related Questions