David Chang Used to Punch Holes in His Restaurant Walls

As a young chef who wasn’t quite able to manage his emotions, David Chang used to punch his kitchen walls to let out frustration. The Momofuku mastermind explains how he eventually learned to keep his cool on the path to success. Powered by Montblanc

Released on 7/21/2015

Credits

Starring: David Chang and Michael Hainey

Transcript

00:00
(upbeat music)
00:06
You think you could outwork anyone?
00:07
Yes.
00:08
Outhustle?
00:09
I will never, I just won't break.
00:10
(Michael laughs)
00:11
You know?
00:12
I mean there's moments that I wanna break, but I just won't.
00:14
One of the things I've always thought about with men is
00:18
there's basically two qualities you can always control,
00:21
that you're given and those are time and energy.
00:25
And it's really sort of your success depends on
00:27
how you harness those, right?
00:30
Where do you find, I mean the energy, it's clear
00:34
you've got this sort of bottomless reservoir of energy,
00:37
but where do you find the time to create and to
00:41
invent what really has been such a transformative cuisine?
00:45
The idea of invention I think is learning to be open
00:50
to the fact that anything could be inspiration.
00:53
Or not having a preconceived notion that something
00:57
can't be anything.
00:58
I always think of the GQ story with Alan Richman
01:00
about you and there's scene in there, we talk about anger,
01:03
do you want to tell people what Korean cockroaches are?
01:06
(Laughs) Korean termites.
01:07
[Michael] Termites.
01:08
For a while when I was younger, opening the restaurants,
01:10
I would punch walls.
01:12
Or just destroy things, like a desk, a metal desk and
01:16
(laughs)
01:17
It's not easy to destroy a metal desk.
01:19
And I just, it sounds childish and stupid now,
01:23
but the reality is I didn't know how to express myself,
01:26
I'm not a manager of people, I wasn't at the time
01:30
and that was the only way I knew how to do it,
01:33
and it was the lowest hanging fruit.
01:35
Over the years I was like, well,
01:37
there's gotta be a better way.
01:39
(laughs) This is really dumb and I'm trying to take a much
01:42
more enlightened approach but it's hard,
01:44
sometimes I wanna punch that wall, but we'll see.
01:47
And those became the termites?
01:48
Yes and there were quite a few of 'em through the years
01:50
I mean, things were very hard, like 2004-2010,
01:55
things are still hard now but
01:57
when you have everything invested in something,
01:59
literally everything invested,
02:01
and I was telling a sous chef recently because he wanted
02:03
to put a dish on the menu and you know
02:05
I was like would you do this idea if you had like
02:08
everything on the line?
02:09
Like your families, savings were on the line,
02:12
what kind of dish would you make?
02:14
[Michael] Right.
02:15
I don't think you'd be making this dish that you're
02:16
selling me right now.
02:17
It would be something a lot more thoughtful,
02:20
a lot more delicious.
02:21
Everyone around you, you're always sort of pushing them
02:24
to go into awkward, unexplored places, right?
02:27
Yes (laughs) myself as well.
02:29
[Michael] Yeah.
02:30
I tend to look at life at right now as one of those
02:32
grade school dances when you sort of first start discovering
02:35
sexuality and the year before you're like girls are gross,
02:39
I would never want to talk to them, and now you're like
02:42
oh maybe I should ask this girl out to dance.
02:43
[Michael] Right.
02:44
But you never do.
02:45
Because you're afraid that you'll be rejected,
02:47
and it's much better to be a wallflower.
02:49
And most people say no to it because of that nausea,
02:52
that feeling of total like,
02:54
you just don't want to be in that moment because
02:56
it's so uncomfortable.
02:59
And I have learned to be attracted to that moment,
03:02
because I found that that's when you're growing and
03:05
the worst thing that's going to happen is
03:06
they'll say no to you.
03:07
But just maybe they'll say yes.
03:09
More often than not, they'll say no to you,
03:10
and you'll get rejected.
03:12
But I found that, at our restaurants at least,
03:14
that's our best work is when we're in that moment where
03:17
we feel like we're going to throw up.