Monday, December 6, 2010

Taking a page from The Book of Chang


Some days you feel like you are living like an Aphex Twin song, where a piano plays wistfully in the background as you whimper under the covers. It's probably raining. It's Monday, which is your Sunday, which means that tomorrow is Tuesday, which is more like your Monday, which is basically just a reason for you to be like Garfield and eat lasagna. You are physically and mentally exhausted from the week previous and so there is only thing to do.

Channel David Chang.

Most people that know me understand my unhealthy obsession with food. The familiar steps of a recipe are as close to religion as I get on a daily basis, and chefs are my deities. When I feel a need to slow down and be methodical, I channel Thomas Keller (and his 454 steps to root vegetable heaven). When I feel toxic and all-consumed, I seek out the vibrant simplicity of Alice Waters. When I need to be coddled, I turn to Molly Stevens (who believes you can braise your way out of any problem), or Laurie Colwin, who will inevitably remind me that the only faith I need on Sunday is a freshly baked pie and a slow cooked stew. However, when I need someone to kick my pathetic self out of Aphex Twin blues, I look to David Chang.

"I felt terrible. I was wracked with stress. So I did the only thing restaurant cooks know how to do: worked harder and harder."

David Chang has become my life guru. He smokes too much, swears too much, and refuses to give up (I am none of these things, I am a total clean living quitter). He does not pretend to be exceptional, but upholds his food and everyone else's to exceptional standards. And the food? The food is brilliant. The food is at once pickly as it is sweet, spicy as it is comforting, and brash as it is humble. The early years of Momofuku were extraordinarily challenging, and Chang was hemorrhaging money and time. At its worst, he contracted shingles and kept working until he was unable to feel the entire left side of his body. This man is not a clean living quitter.

"And me. I'm burnt out. Fried. At some point 'me' evolved into 'we.' My life stopped being mine and the restaurants' needs replaced any I might have had. I got into the kitchen to get away from sitting at a desk and having to be nice to people, and here I am with a calendar full of events and meetings and food conferences. I opened a noodle bar so I wouldn't have to deal with the expectations of the starred restaurant world and that plan fell flat on its face. (Living up to high expectations sucks).
But for all that, I know this: I am one very lucky bastard."

He is unapologetic and he works hard. But the most important thing? He does nothing on Sundays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December Song