(David Chang-as articulate as ever)
Isn’t it amazing how chefs become great writers as soon as they become famous?*
Suddenly, guys who flunked out of school, or who have worked with their hands their entire lives, or who once couldn’t get a job doing anything but answering phones in a restaurant, become marvelous, creative scribes as soon as they have a brand worth brandishing.
Even more amazing, these entrepreneurs — who truly spend almost every waking hour in meetings, on the phone or in an airplane, suddenly have the time to slave away at a keyboard, carefully crafting words and opinions to be published in major periodicals.
We at ELV are fascinated and envious of the talent these folks possess to suddenly, out of nowhere, command the English language in all sorts of compelling ways — so much so that they start doing everything from publishing food ‘zines to having regular columns in other ones.
And opinions. Boy, do these bad boys have opinions. Because you can’t be a bad ass chef without opinions. And you can’t promote those edgy opinions without having the time, the energy and the genius to be able to sit down and put those opinions on paper (figuratively speaking) in a way that will have the public slurping them up like a six-pack of Sriracha.
And boy does (bad boy, cutting edge, media darling chef #1) David Chang have opinions.
He has opinions on bologna sandwiches; he has opinions on bad beer. David Chang even has opinions on how shitty your Thanksgiving dinner is. That’s because David Chang is an edgy, contrarian chef….just like his publicist wants him to be.
And when that publicist, or his agent, or his manager, or his financial backers need him to publish another hip, edgy, against-the-grain article about how wacky and out-of-the-box he is, David Chang can, miraculously, spit one out faster than a Balzac novel.
None of this ginned-up tomfoolery would bother us if he had stayed away from our turf. But David Chang — author, editor, publisher, all-around man of letters — decided to stray into Vegas recently and put his by-line on this piece of tripe about where one should pursue “normavore/normcore” dining when in our humble burg. (Can’t you just see the room of ghost-writers and sycophants at a table batting around catchphrases and buzz words they hope will have that David Chang-ian feel to them?)
If his selections had been even slightly close to the mark, we would’ve left him alone; as it is, his “selections” on where to find the best normal food in Vegas are so lame, we felt it was time to call a fraud a fraud.
Because the David Chang we know, the David Chang who took the world by storm in 2006 with his Momofuku franchise, who elevated Korean food to appeal to snooty, New York hipsters, who took cookies to new heights with Milk Bar, and Vietnamese food to unexpected levels of deliciousness with Má Pêche, wouldn’t be caught dead eating the pasteurized oysters at the Palace Station Oyster Bar, or the ho-hum noodles at Bejing Noodle #9. “Chang” calls the by-the-numbers dim sum at Chang’s a “normavore’s paradise,” and the Sysco-special chicken fingers at Mr. Lucky’s “the best anywhere.”
“Chang” (or whoever they are) calls Bund Shanghai’s thick, doughy, unimpressive sheng jian bao “great” and “the best kind of dumpling,” and waxes eloquent about Vegas being the mecca of normcore dining. But he undermines his very thesis with this litany of crappy suggestions. Which leads us to the only conclusion any sane person can come to: David Chang didn’t write a word of the article. In our minds, it’s even suspect that he came to Vegas…although we’ll give him that, since so many casinos have been courting him recently.
So let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume David Chang — author, publisher, wordsmith exemplar — did come to town. We’ll bet dollars to doughnuts what he did was come here, eat, and then throw some intel at some poor flack, who was put to the task of making it readable. And do you know what the giveaway was? The simple phrase “I always order the salted-shrimp fried rice.” David Chang doesn’t always order the salted-shrimp fried rice. David Chang has been to Chang’s maybe once (if at all). The phrase “I always order….” is straight up, travel writer fluff — used to impart knowledge, experience and worldliness most of them don’t have.
David Chang didn’t write those words, someone else did. If, indeed, he did come here, and eat in all those places, and write those words, he’s either an idiot or not the chef we thought he was.
If he didn’t, he’s an outright fraud.
No matter how you cut the kimchee, he shouldn’t be telling people how to eat well in Vegas.
* None of this applies to Anthony “Fuck Nuts” Bourdain, who is as good a writer as he is a chef.