NorCal Asia Society Eighty-Sixes David Chang After New York Chef's Diss of S.F. Restaurants

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NYC Wine & Food Festival
Blame it on the ah-ah-ah-alcohol.
​A spokesman for the Asia Society confirmed that the organization canceled an event with New York superchef David Chang for Nov. 9, after Chang made disparaging remarks about chefs in San Francisco. "Regrettably, it's true," said Robert Bullock, program director for the Northern California chapter of the Asia Society. Chang -- chef/owner of the Momofuku family of Manhattan restaurants, including Ko and Noodle Bar -- made the remarks before an audience at the New York City Wine and Food Festival Oct. 9. According to Grub Street, Chang, who was in conversation with Anthony Bourdain (the two were drinking beer on stage), dissed San Francisco restaurants. "Fuckin' every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate. Do something with your food."

Chang was supposed to appear at S.F.'s E&O Trading Co for an Asia Society food series event celebrating New Asian cooking. "This was going to be the next big thing in this series," he said. "I was really excited about it." But Bullock said he received a note from an S.F. chef participating in the dinner (Bullock declined to name him at the chef's request) he preferred not to mention, indicating a refusal to appear with Chang. "The note said, 'I just can't do this, this is now personal,'" Bullock said. "From my perspective I was stunned." Meanwhile, E&O had rescinded its invitation to host the dinner.

Bullock said going on with the Chang event -- despite the difficulties of scrambling for a new venue -- would have jeopardized Asia Society's relationship with local chefs. S.F. chefs slated to participate in the dinner were Alex Ong from Betelnut, E&O's Arnold Eric Wong and ex-Slanted Door pastry chef Mutsumi Tahara. Slanted Door owner Charles Phan had declined an invitation to appear at the event. Phan told SFoodie his decision was unrelated to Chang's remarks.

"This wasn't just a barstool conversation," Bullock said of Chang's remarks. "It was for the public record, in front of hundreds of people. I understand bad boy talk, but you can't do that in public." The S.F. appearance was expected to be the kickoff for Chang's book tour. Momofuku (Potter, $40) -- the chef's first book -- is set for release Oct. 27.

Bullock said he contacted Chang's representatives to tell them the event had been canceled, but hadn't heard from Chang directly (Bullock believes he's traveling in Spain and unreachable by email). "Personally, I think if he were to come out with an apology, and said, 'I was drunk, I was stupid, I never should have said that,' maybe we could do something with him again in the future. Maybe for the paperback release."

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