I stumbled across David Chang on Netflix 6 years ago. I was scrolling for a food show. Because I am an Anthony Bourdain fan PBS’ Mind of a Chef was recommended. I became an instant fan. Soon I made my first ramen from scratch. And it wasn’t a complete disaster.
David Chang is the kind of character that you either love or hate. He had some radical ideas for the food industry he brought over from Asia.
The primary reason I like David Chang is because of the way he thinks. He steals. The same way Austin Kleon and Chase Jarvis steal. The same way Picasso stole.
It’s a technique I discovered in college when my art classes helped me understand biology.
This theme is prevalent in the recipes at Momofuku, in his TV shows, and in his podcast. It’s only fitting that it continues in his memoir.
Chang covers some very poignant topics:
His take on these topics is insightful. It's always useful to hear others’ perspectives on a topic. These topics are getting some much-needed light shed on them. As with most things assumptions are not always helpful. It's better to listen and seek understanding first.
While I am interested in cooking I am not interested in the restaurant industry as a whole. I don’t particularly love to go to restaurants. But it’s not hard for me to use restaurants as a metaphor for my own industry. I read Chang’s book selfishly. Looking for things I could steal and repurpose.
The philosophy book I read right after Eat A Peach summed up my approach perfectly:
“What matters is usefulness and appropriateness to life.”
The book is easy and enjoyable to read. The stories are well told and memorable. The structure was reminiscent of Kevin Hart’s book I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons. Which I also enjoyed.
Chang talks about what it was like to stand in the middle of two cultures. Not quite Korean and not quite American. I’ve had similar feelings of dichotomy. Straddling saint and misfit. It’s these two worlds colliding that has defined his stance and approach to the world.
I appreciated his recommendation to go to college and get a liberal arts education. He gives credit to his own education as the vehicle for helping him connect dots. I feel strongly that it’s this kind of thinking and problem solving that is going to be necessary for the future.
Throughout the book, he references bringing religion and philosophy into the kitchen. Seeing the parallels. This to me shows the sign of true craftsmanship. I am sure his food tastes good. But more than that food has brought his life meaning and purpose. It’s a way for him to get his ideas out of his head and into the world in a tangible way.
It’s this idea is interesting to me.
Getting so good at something that it becomes second nature. Through that second nature, meaning can be infused.
I am constantly at odds with myself looking for fulfillment “out there”. Chang’s memoir is a good reminder that my fulfillment is only going to come from one source: myself.
How’s that for moral cheddar?
I have gotten in the habit of transcribing the passages I underlined while reading onto notecards. This memoir produced nearly a quarter-inch of notecards (including the one above).
There are two major items I pulled from this book. The first is the article How to be an Artist by Jerry Saltz that Chang unabashedly steals from. In the same fashion as the book, there is a lot of transferable wisdom.
The most practical piece of advice is Chang's use of blue tape to label things in the kitchen. We reuse plastic containers and so we’ve got a fridge full of cream cheese. But it’s not all cream cheese. For one reason or another, I never thought of labeling.
I now know when I started my homemade vanilla.