David Chang: S.F. Reaction to Fig-Gate 'Retardedly Stupid'
The day after publication of his book, the wonderful Momofuku (Clarkson Potter, $40), SFoodie spoke wiith New York chef David Chang. You know, the guy who stirred up a shit storm earlier this month with the comment that "fuckin' every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate." In the aftermath, the NorCal Asia Society canceled an event with Chang scheduled for early November, when the chef will be in town to promote Momofuku.
timeoutnewyork/Flickr Chang: A bad case of produce envy.
SFoodie: Gotta ask you about the "figs on a plate" controversy.
Chang: It's just retardedly stupid. Number one, where did journalism go? The thing was totally taken out of context -- I can't believe I'm the guy saying that context thing. And even if it wasn't, you have reporters who are reporting on something they have no information on. If they [the Asia Society] wanna cancel an event, we'll just move on. Why would people get upset? I'm not gonna retract what I said. I think everybody needs to chill out. People need to smoke more marijuana in San Francisco.
SFoodie: I think they already do.
Chang: They need to smoke MORE! We were talking about creativity and things happening in America, not just in San Francisco. America lags in creativity, especially compared to Europe. We're generally five to six years behind.
California produce is so awesome. People in New York would die to get [California] ingredients. A lot of chefs in New York spend a lot of money bringing those ingredients in from California. I'm so envious. It's the same thing that [Coi's] Daniel [Patterson] is trying to say: Let's try to be creative, you have access to the greatest produce, arguably, in the world, it's wonderful. It's the same thing I said about steakhouses: Why do we need 20 steakhouses in New York? And we're not producing cooks in this country, these young people -- we're just teaching them technique.
[At the New York Food and Wine event] I did mention restaurants like Chez Panisse and Oliveto, they've been wildly important, but we need more people doing more creative stuff, and not just in San Francisco but in New York, too. I mean, Quince is hard-school Alice Waters, and yet it's a wonderful restaurant. Of course not everybody is doing figs on a plate. I'm really excited about a lot of restaurants in San Francisco, you've got so many great chefs. There's Nancy Oakes, Gary Danko, Roland Passot.
There's no reason why San Francisco shouldn't be the culinary capital of the world: You've got great ingredients, a food-savvy public - and I'm not just talking fine dining, but food in general. The Mission has amazing, amazing ethnic food. But I would never open a restaurant in San Francisco. Number one, the bureaucracy is just ridiculous, if you're gonna burden all these businesses with minimum wages and health care -- and I'm all for giving health care and giving people wages. It's almost a given. But it's all too prohibitive.