David Chang, the award winning chef/owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Má Pêche, Momofuku Milk Bar and Momofuku Ko in New York, serves up his thoughts on snacks, grub and rock & roll.
What do chefs and rock stars have in common?
Well, a lot people become rock stars because they want to become famous, and that was never really a motivation for any cook until very recently. So there are some similarities, like the hours, but really, we work a lot a lot harder than musicians.
First times: what’s the first record you bought? First meal you cooked?
The first album I bought was Diver Down by Van Halen. I just liked the cover and thought Eddie Van Halen was cool. I really don’t remember the first meal I cooked, but the first time I realized that cooking was really a viable career was when I was at Craft. Just working with your hands and being part of a team was very infectious. There was a camaraderie that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Let’s talk starters: What’s your ultimate side one, track one, and what’s your ultimate appetizer?
It’s gotta be Pavement’s “Summer Babe” off Slanted & Enchanted. I love Pavement and that’s the first song off their first album. My ultimate appetizer is probably the mushroom foie gras pie by Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance in Paris.
Let’s talk seduction: what’s your go-to soundtrack for getting it on, and what’s your go-to meal for getting a lady in the mood?
A closing the deal song. . . that’s a tough one. I tend to go with Luna’s Penthouse. It’s not really romantic, but it’s just great ambient music. For food, I think anytime you do handmade noodles from scratch, that always looks good.
On the road: what’s ultimate road food and what are the best driving songs?
It’s always beef jerky at a convenience store, and fried chicken. For music, lots of AC/DC, lots of Dylan, lots of Pavement, lots of Built to Spill, lots of the Clash. Plus Queen, Bowie and the Kinks. Lots of Kinks.
Food and music pairings — can you pair a dish with:
The Ramones: Instead of dishes, I tend to think along the lines of specific chefs, and when I think of punk bands like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, I equate it to what Wiley Dufresne does at WD-50 in New York: food that was not accepted and then becomes accepted.
The Rolling Stones: When I think of the Stones I think of what Michael Mina was doing at Aqua in the nineties. I don’t know why, but that’s what it evokes for me.
Britney Spears: Geez. TGI Fridays?
Jimi Hendrix: He always makes me think of Inaki Aizpitarte at Chateaubriand in Paris.
Bob Dylan: Ferran Adria, especially when you think of post-electric Dylan. I mean, Ferran had been around for many, many years, and then in 1994, he destroyed the entire notion of what food was and sort of rearranged everything. He’d been cooking classically for a long time, and then when he changed, everyone tried to put meaning into something that wasn’t there. Nobody really knows what Ferran wanted, and everyone puts him under a microscope, just like everyone puts what Dylan did under a microscope. And just like there will never be another Dylan, there will never be another Ferran. There are going to be great bands, and there are going to be great chefs, but there’s nothing as epic as somebody that was in the right place at the right time.
If you could invite all your favorite artists, living or dead, for a dinner party, who would you invite?
I’d definitely invite Joe Strummer. I’d get Mac McCaughan from Superchunk, Mark Ibold from Pavement, and Will Odham. Man, this is tough. I’d get John Bonham. And I’d invite the Davies brothers from the Kinks for a little drama.
What would you cook?
You know, I wouldn’t want to cook. I’d probably hire somebody to cook something simple like a bunch of blue crabs, some potatoes and some really good bread and butter. Plus lots of cold beer and lots of wine.
What makes certain music suited for cooking?
In our kitchens it’s a real mixed bag; everyone from AC/DC to Funkadelic to Gang of Four.
What about for eating?
I’ll give you the top ten songs we’ve played at the restaurant over the past year: “Tomorrow Never Knows” by 801, “Providence” by TV on the Radio, “Five Cornered Drone (Crispy Duck)” by Yo La Tengo, “You Can’t Stop Me Now” by the RZA, “Life Like” by the Rosebuds, “Mambo Sun” by T-Rex, “Your Fucking Sunny Day” by Lambchop, “Point That Thing Somewhere Else” by the Clean, “Sweet Lady Guinevieve” by the Kinks, “Freaking and Tweaking” by Luna, and…well this is a weird one, “Margarita” by the Traveling Wilburys.
What is your rock & roll fantasy?
I’d want to see the show that Jimi Hendrix played right after he heard Sgt. Pepper’s for the first time. And more than anything I would say the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Not just Hendrix, but the whole thing. Otis Redding, the Who…it was insane!
Who is the one artist out there now that you want to see live?
I’d like to see a band that’s at their peak right now, so I have to say LCD Soundsystem because they’re not going to be around much longer.
And what’s the one restaurant you haven’t eaten at yet that you’re most looking forward to?
Sukiyabashi Jiro Sushi in Ginza, Tokyo. The chef is like 89 years old. He serves what is almost universally considered the best sushi in the world, and it’s only so many more years that he’ll be alive. The only restaurant in American that I really want to eat at that I haven’t been to yet is Corey Lee’s Benu in San Francisco.
At Momofuku Noodle Bar there’s a huge portrait of the Band. How come?
For me, the idea behind that picture was this sense of teamwork that I want to bring to the kitchen. Their music was interesting because everyone could play every instrument, and they were all extraordinarily talented. So to me, it’s not just that it’s a cool photo and that I love the Band, but it's what the picture means.