David Chang on Why Chinese Food Is "Underrated" and the Reason He Used to Avoid Cooking Korean Dishes
From opening his first restaurant in Los Angeles, to working as an NBC Sports special correspondent for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, to debuting his new Netflix show Ugly Delicious, David Chang had a very busy month last month—which, if you're looking for some workload inspiration and/or terror, Food & Wine has chronicled in detail.
So hopefully it was after a bit of a break that he took to The Daily Show interview chair last night to talk to host Trevor Noah about Ugly Delicious, both discussing some of the inspirations behind the show, and delving deeper into the connections between food and culture it explores.
Chang originally didn't want to cook Korean food
Chang says that growing up in Northern Virginia, he was made fun of for his mom's Korean cooking, to the point that when he started cooking professionally, he was "ashamed of it," and tried not to cook Korean dishes at all (though fortunately for everyone, he ultimately got past this).
The show is really about culture, good and bad
"Food is more popular than ever before, and it intersects so many different parts of culture through the world," Chang tells Noah. So he and co-creators Morgan Neville and Eddie Schmidt decided to use food as a way to talk about culture—both its good and bad sides.
The meaning of the name
"Ugly Delicious," Chang says encapsulates foods that the chef finds "truly delicious," but don't necessarily look great on the cover of a magazine, and aren't always considered cool. He cites a bowl of curry as an example: not always flashy, but so, so good.
Why Chinese food is underrated (along with most non-Western food)
Even though Chinese food seems to be the most prevalent kind of food throughout the world, according to Chang, it's not seen as being quite as "cool" as European cuisines. And the reason, he says, is one of those darker parts of culture: "hidden racism in how people perceive not just Chinese food, but basically anything that's different from mainstream America." He cites myths about MSG and the meats in Asian restaurants as "not just misperceptions," but "just wrong."
It's time to learn more about our food
Noah asks about the Ugly Delicious episode on fried chicken, which delves into the history of a dish that was born out of oppression and slavery. He says that, while we don't have to suddenly start burdening ourselves with the entire dark history behind our meals and the cultures that produce them with every bite, information is now so easily available that everyone should "go down that rabbit hole a little bit." While he doesn't have answers, he hopes the show will start more conversations, and, after all, as he says, " and if we can't talk about fried chicken how are we supposed to talk about other things that are problematic?"