FT Foodies: David Chang

When did you first know you were a good cook?

I try not to think about it. If you start believing it, you can start making something terrible.

Was there another career you might have pursued?

My dad was in the restaurant business, but I didn’t really think about following him. Had I done better at school, I don’t know if I would have been a chef. It was the one profession that embraced me. My first job was at [Tom Colicchio’s New York restaurant] Craft, and I realised I could learn so much.

What was your most hated chore as a trainee chef?

Cleaning sea urchins or anything that would prick your fingers. And then making something like lemon confit – you’d have punctured your skin in about 10 places, and had to work in a highly acidic solution. Not fun.

What was it like to open your first restaurant?

I was way too young. I didn’t know enough – I needed to prove things to myself that weren’t culinary; there was a lot going on in my life. I made an extraordinary number of mistakes. My father and his friends pitched in the money, initially $130,000; we paid it all back in the second year.

What did you learn in that time?

Be careful what you wish for – getting to be a successful business and maintaining it is so hard. Anyone can be good one night, being good over several years is incredibly difficult.

What do New Yorkers like about your restaurants?

[Momofuku] is informal. To eat well, I always disagree with critics who say that all restaurants should be fine dining. You can get a Michelin star if you serve the best hamburger in the world.

What’s your favourite dish at your restaurants?

I look forward to the spring vegetables because the season is so short. Mushrooms, edible foraged herbs, wild leeks, early season asparagus …

Who would work in your dream kitchen?

Albert Adrià, Escoffier, Paul Bocuse, Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Claude Bosi, Brett Graham ... The list isn’t infinite but it is pretty long.

What’s next for Momofuku?

A restaurant in Sydney and an iPad app in May. It’s still in the works, but hopefully people can learn – about our restaurant and our food.

David Chang is chef of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Manhattan

www.momofuku.com; ‘Momofuku’, by David Chang and Peter Meehan, is published by Absolute Press

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