Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Noodles and Eggs

David Chang’s food is anything if not highly anticipated, especially if you are trying to snag a reservation at Momofuku Ko. The New York based restaurant is infamously difficult to get a seat in with its online only reservation system, serving capacity of 12 customers, and only a tasting menu. But despite the hoops that customers need to jump through to get to Momofuku Ko, they keep coming for the food.

Momofuku Ko, named as a derivative off of the two Momofuku restaurants that came before it, was open by Chang in 2008 and was a high-end and ambitious move for the relatively young yet rapidly renowned chef. Chang had owned his own business for only four years prior to Momofuku Ko’s opening but his success in management and the rave about his edgy culinary style allowed for the opportunity of steady growth. In fact, today Chang’s initial 2004 Momofuku Noodle Bar has grown into a variety of different kinds of restaurants in 15 locations throughout New York, Sydney, and Toronto.

His most ambitious move has been his businesses in Toronto, which are all located in one building complex. The all-Momofuku building contains a noodle bar on the ground floor, a bar called Nikai on the second floor, and on the third two different restaurants with two very different target populations and atmospheres. Chang received a lot of criticism from within his community of professionals for such a move and perhaps risking Momofuku into becoming “higher-quality version of a fast-food chain.” But the criticism means little for Chang. Despite the critiques he has received about his style of business and his management style (Chang has a bit of a temper, to say the least), he continues to make food the way he likes. It’s delicious and it keeps his customers coming for more.

Chang was just about to hit 30 years of age when his expansion of the Momofuku brand continued. He spent an exceptionally short time as a junior line cook but his dedication was uncanny, as he quit a well paying job under a chef to answer calls in another up and coming restaurant in hope of eventually joining its’ kitchen. He consistently pipped down the praise he received for his edgy and brash culinary style and kept the criticism from changing who he was a chef. His reward system for the innovative work he did in his business and kitchen, proposes somewhat of a dichotimy. As Baer discusses the influence of intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, Chang can be seen as very oblivious to the extrinsic criticism he receives and focuses on his intrinsic pleasure of making food that others can enjoy. Furthermore, he has repeatedly avoided facing the merits that he receives for his work from food organizations. For instance, when Food & Wine named him as one of the best chefs of the year in 2006, he requested that the editor not publish his name with the honor. Such merits still make Chang anxious but he has learned to better deal with them.

Although Chang’s various Momofuku businesses offer different types of food, he is known for his love for ramen noodles, a staple that got him through late nights in his dorm room during his undergraduate years. Throughout his time in Japan as a teacher, his culinary education, as well as the two years he spent cooking in Tokyo, Chang’s obsession with noodles and eggs only grew. Memories of having ramen with his father as a child and how the bowl of noodles connected him to his Korean-American roots, inspired him to build his empire around the dish. Momofuku started with a noodle bar and the trend continues in Chang’s new businesses.

1 comment:

  1. David Chang’s food sounds delicious! I would love to be one of the lucky 12 customers at Momofuku Ko. It sounds like Chang is truly a big C creative. The fact that he is completely intrinsically motivated and did not even want his name published for his accomplishments is very rare in today's society. It is refreshing to see someone who creates solely for his own pleasure and does not let outside pressures sway him. Furthermore, the fact that he is willing to take chances and make cutting edge business decisions such as his multi-restaurant building shows that he possesses the innovation aspect of creativity. I think food is a fascinating creative outlet as it stems from a basic human necessity yet offers a limitless amount of possibilities for artists to create from. Thank you for sharing about Chang and his Momofuku brand.


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