How important are food reviews to David Chang?
I loved golf, because winning was cut and dry. There’s nobody that can say, “Oh, he doesn’t deserve it. He didn’t earn it.” Well, I beat you by eight strokes. It’s very simple: We played the same course, same conditions. There are no ifs, ands or buts. But the culinary world was something that I never thought I would win any awards in, let alone all the great wonderful things that have come our way. It’s not false modesty. I just had no plan on it ever happening. I never wanted to be that person that had that pressure.
Something that I’ve asked myself recently is, “Are we cooking now because we want to make people happy? Or are we cooking to win awards?” It’s a hard question that, to be honest, I don’t know how to answer. It’s something that looms very large on us. We try not to think about. We try to keep it out of sight, out of mind, but there is a lot of pressure. Ssäm Bar, for instance, got three stars in the New York Times. We didn’t want three stars. We’re happy to have it, but with that came a lot of criticism. We became a lightning rod for a lot of the accolades, and I didn’t think that was fair. I’ll take whatever heat, but don’t mess with my guys — don’t mess with my staff.