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The superstar chef reveals one of his biggest miscalculations, and how he really feels about the Majordomo opening. 

Elisabeth Sherman
April 27, 2018

Following the announcement that he would be launching his own media platform called Majordomo Media, David Chang released the first episode of his podcast this week. The chef is his usual forthright and unfiltered self, making more than a few confessions to listeners, from how he feels about critics to his drinking habits in the early stages of his career. More than just explaining what it takes to open a good restaurant, Chang reveals how he views his own success, and what keeps him motivated to open new restaurants, even after failure sent him into a tailspin.

He's in full overshare mode, and the results are a compelling look inside the mind of one of the most successful chefs on the planet. Here’s everything we learned from the first episode of The Dave Chang Show:

  • Before the opening of Majordomo, in the midst of the release of Ugly Delicious and his stint as an Olympics correspondent, Chang says he felt “depressed,” and “unsure of [himself].”
     
  • Chang came up with the name Majordomo while trying to write a variation of Lucky Peach in Chinese characters. His translator told him that his lettering was totally off—he had accidentally written a word that translates closer to “head of the household.” The lucky coincidence led Chang to the term Majordomo (from the Latin major dominus), which he interprets as “someone who is in the know.”
     
  • Chang is a farmer’s market aficionado: He frequents the Hollywood, Atwater, and Santa Monica markets. He thinks Los Angeles’ fresh produce—from avocado to strawberries—is one of the best reasons to live in the city.
     
  • He likens running a restaurant to giving birth. He also calls the entire endeavor “incredibly stupid and Sisyphean.”
     
  • Majordomo has turned out to be a hit so far, but back when Chang recorded this podcast, he wasn’t so sure. He feared that it would be “the biggest joke in L.A.”
     
  • Chang has two words for people who think all he does at Momofuku is make Asian food: “Fuck you.” People with that simple-minded assumption, Chang says, “make me so upset.”
     
  • Though he doesn’t explicitly say which restaurant he’s referring to, Chang calls one of his New York City restaurants a “miscalculation,” and says that it “wasn’t right.” He could be referring to his short-lived delivery only restaurant Ando, but it’s more likely that he’s talking about Momofuku Nishi, which was initially panned by critics.
     
  • In fact, after Pete Wells's excoriating review of Momofuku Nishi, Chang says he was “completely broken.”
     
  • Around 2015, Chang was feeling so disillusioned by the industry that he told friends, “I should have just worked at a bank.” He felt as though the entire restaurant world was ruled by greed.
     
  • Chang claims that one of the biggest misconceptions about chefs is that they’re rich. “Chefs really don’t make that much money,” he says. He goes on to say that he wishes the public understood that “just because a restaurant is busy, doesn’t mean you’re making money.”
     
  • Although Chang swears he never drank on the job, he does reveal that he “drowned it out in booze”—the constant pressure to succeed, and the praise, which he thinks can quickly inflate a chef’s ego. “I drank my face off for so many years.”
     
  • He still can’t handle compliments though. “I think they’re lies,” he confesses.
     

  • Chang wishes he could be the type of chef that, through repetition, becomes a master at one type of cooking (like a sushi chef, or a pizzaiolo), but he can’t. “I get so fucking bored…I’ve never had the patience to be the craftsman,” he says.
     
  • One of Chang’s main drivers when he’s planning a new menu? “I don’t want people to feel like they got ripped off.”
  • The Dave Chang Show Pre-Opening Diaries Volume 1, is available on iTunes podcasts now.