7/18/2012 05:53:00 PM

Quote of the Day: David Chang About That California Cuisine Diss

David Chang all smiley and nicey nice in San Francisco
It took almost an hour into David Chang’s talk at City Arts and Lectures on Tuesday night to get around to those choice words he had for the lamentable state of San Francisco dining. The usually outspoken Momofuku empire builder was noticeably non-controversial (and even self-deprecating) throughout most of the interview with moderator Adam Savage, peppering most of his explanations about his restaurant’s runaway success with loads of “we-made-a–lot-of-mistakes” responses. He even dodged two potential hornet’s nests when asked about the dearth of women chefs and the rise of young Asian chefs. (On the former, he hypothesizes it’s hard to regain that edge after stepping away from the kitchen to raise a family, noting that it’s equally hard for him as well, now that he spends so much time away from the stove. On the Asian issue, he says it less about skin color and more about the great chefs that paved the way for them.)

But then, there it was. Waiting for him from the back of the orchestra. “The last time you were here," an audience member inquired, “you said that you didn't like California cuisine and would never open a restaurant here. Have you changed your opinion?” After a long burst of audience laughter, Chang took a breath, than replied dryly. “Do I regret saying anything derogatory? No. Ok, so Tony [Bourdain] got me totally drunk. And my words were taken out of context. I adore Alice. I adore Chez Panisse. But what I was saying was that in every facet of culture throughout recent history, San Francisco has challenged the status quo. Technology, sexuality, music. Everything. Except food. With the exception of a few people (Jeremy Fox, Daniel Patterson, Corey Lee, James Syhabout), I don’t see chefs being as passionate about challenging the old ways and embracing the new.”

So there you have it.


  1. You missed one of the exceptions he mentioned: Christopher Kostow. His restaurant is far and away a glaring example that California is doing something innovative and exciting.

  2. So you have to do something "new" to be good? That's BS!