New York City has not been the same since David Chang came to town and opened his hole-in-the-wall ramen joint in the East Village in 2004. At first utterly ignored and then endlessly imitated, the Momofuku Noodle Bar ultimately turned Chang into a superstar. Google him and you will learn that he is headstrong, contrarian, prodigiously talented, self-deprecating, mad about music, a workaholic, generous to his staff, worried over by friends and colleagues, hooked on the F-word, and incapable of taking the easy way out. All true.
His parents emigrated from Korea in the 1960s, his father demonstrating the same ambitious streak as his son, starting out as a dishwasher in New York City and eventually running a golf supplies business outside Washington, D.C. This is where David grew up, eating his mother’s Korean barbecue and kimchi. After college he moved to Japan, an experience that taught him restaurant food didn’t have to be expensive to be delicious.
Chang’s very personal vision mixes his Asian roots with European technique and the best of American food culture. Thanks to him, New Yorkers have developed an addiction to fluffy pork buns filled with braised Berkshire belly, among other (largely pork-based) delights. He now runs a restaurant group that extends from Manhattan to Sydney to Toronto, and his impact stretches further—a quarterly food journal (Lucky Peach), a role on a TV series (Treme), even a place on the Time 100 list as one of the most influential people of 2010. Not bad for a guy who started out making noodles.