2018 is a pivotal year for David Chang. The premier of the Netflix series Ugly Delicious has taken him to the pinnacle of food fame. To assure survival of the Momofuku Empire – which was somewhat precarious -and to maintain his place as one the leading chef/restauranteurs in America, Chang has made some strategic business moves.
Ugly Delicious offers a real look at David’s obsession for eating, his passion for cooking and his advocacy for the superiority of Korean and Asian cuisine. Most everyone will find it fun and entertaining. Chang joins his friends who are some of the world’s most passionate cooks, successful restauranteurs, and acclaimed food writers for some foodie globetrotting. He meets with the elite of celebrity chefdom; he dines at some of the world’s great tables and he eats at some real dives and out of the way places. David’s informality and a desire to appeal to the street tend to overshadow his intellectually curious mind and his reputation for hard-nosed authoritarian business practices.
There have been some miscues in the burgeoning Momofuku empire as a result of having too many irons in the fire. Notably Chang gambled on an experiment in quick delivery of restaurant style food from a central kitchen via the Internet- a virtual restaurant. In part this was a reaction to the ever-rising costs of rent in New York. Apparently the idea was not very well thought out and after great effort and expense Chang finally discovered it was next to impossible to deliver food very much faster or better than the typical restaurant or take-out place. The ventures were shuttered.
Chang was also publishing a food magazine Lucky Peach that didn’t find big enough of an audience to pay for its continued publication. It was abruptly shut down in 2017.
In the last past three to four years the quality of some of the restaurants slipped and did not go unnoticed by both the dining public and food journalists. The highly rated Toronto Shoto, considered the best in the city, lost a star. Nishi in NYC, an unusual take on Italian food using mostly Asian ingredients and techniques, was widely panned.
Of late Chang’s Momofuku Empire is getting itself in order. In 2017 a significant investment in the Momofuko businesses was made the very savvy New York real estate and Miami Dolphins sports franchise billionaire partners– RSE group, founded by mogul Steve Ross. It is clear that these deep pockets see David Chang as the Wolfgang Puck of his generation. He will now have greater access capital to expand the stuff that works and to capitalize on Momofuku’s brands. There will also be expansion Milk Bar which for the past few years has been undernourished. Milk Bar is a collaboration founded by Food Celeb Christina Tosi and Chang.
Chang has also been able to tweak his other restaurants to maintain the stellar quality by hiring top flight chefs and managers. Momofuko’s Shoto and Dasho in Toronto were shuttered and will return sometime in 2018 with something new.
Nishi received a complete makeover with a redesigned interior and a completely new menu. It is led by Momofuku veteren chef Joshua Pinsky.
Momofuku Ssam Bar, one of the original NYC triumphs that made waves more than a decade ago got a major renovation and expansion as a well as a new Chef. It received a most favorable review by Pete Wells of the New York Times. Our own Foodboomblogger Ken Shin recently returned and we assure you it is as good as ever.
With the help of his financial backers Chang is in the enviable position to expand the mix of his visionary upscale restaurants. Also he may now have the support to take Fuku, a chicken sandwich fast food restaurant, and the delicious concoctions of the Milk Bar, to wider audiences in the U.S. and around the world. This time around, if his relationship with his new partners flourishes, Chang’s Momofuku Empire will be unstoppable.