David Chang, a bit of high-strung/manic-depressive/rather savvy, even if he denies it/pretty well-read and smart/Korean-American/daredevil chef, launched Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village in New York City in 2004. In this foodie memoir, Chang tells his story. It’s personal and professional. With all kinds of chef-centric stories and startling backstage glimpses, it’s a book that leaves readers hungry.

Jennifer: So I think it’s only right that you take the floor here. I should preface everything to say that this book isn’t my cup of my tea. It’s not a world I’m all that into. I have NOTHING bad to say about it. He’s a true artist, and he’s authentic and I respect him. Nothing about his seemingly abrasive personality offends me, because he’s real and he’s elevated his cooking to Art, undoubtedly.

What I think I love is that I’m guessing you loved it.

For the record, I would say I’m a low-level foodie. And I watch The Great British Baking Show. And David Chang could cook for me any damn day. 

Lara: I did thoroughly enjoy it. He’s very authentic, brash, and surprisingly reflective and introspective – which I respected. I was also impressed by how much he shared about his struggles with his mental health — and the fact that he lived with crushing insecurities/anxiety/depression while ascending to a James Beard Award Winning Chef. 

I could piss you off with this statement: I think you need to eat out more to be considered a foodie.


Jennifer: Oh, you’re right. Let me piss you off (we are all for that, folks): To be a foodie, you’ve gotta have money. 

Lara: Wrong. Read this article that refutes your money argument.  

Jennifer: Nice. I barely believe it. Here’s the extent of my Foodie Life (you’ve heard of Thug Life, which I’ve heard is now considered a microaggression?): My family experimented with going vegan for about five minutes until we ate jackfruit and simultaneously jumped ship, I eat a lobster roll in New England whenever I can, the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten was on the road in Panguitch (Utah), I swear by Junior’s cheesecake on Flatbush and Dekalb in Brooklyn, I really liked Popeye’s chicken sandwich when I ate it when everyone was making a big deal about it, my husband and I love going to a local Ukrainian restaurant and just writing that makes me want to eat sausage and sauerkraut right now, and I am a bonafide coffee connoisseur. I know my coffee, damn straight.

Lara: Here’s another thing that impressed me. He was so committed to his craft to the point of madness and assholery. The fact that he brought in an executive consultant, who surveyed his team, and essentially said (I am paraphrasing here): “You are working at the height of your field, doing the best work, your team is absolutely committed to delivering their best, and they hate you.” He has humility, or at least a willingness to learn about himself and do better. I found that surprising and would think that isn’t common.

Did anything surprise or impress you?

Jennifer: Well, I think I was impressed by his devotion to his Art. I thought he took responsibility for any misdemeanors, and he comes off as brash but not unkind.

Also, I’ve gotta be honest here. He downplayed his academic acumen–but he was a bit impressive in his readerly name-dropping and knowledge.

Lara: I also found it interesting that in this entire book, a food memoir by a chef, does not have a single recipe in it. Ha! He does provide a recipe of sorts in the back for people aspiring to become a chef. It starts with advice to consider not becoming a chef. Oh! I don’t think I had realized that Anthony Bourdain was kind of a lower level chef in the chefdom hierarchy that chefs like Chang initially didn’t respect, but came to love for his ability to represent the business so accurately.

Jennifer: Because of my limited knowledge of this world, I was probably most drawn to his insider-info on Anthony Bourdain. Again, he’s kind. Somehow or other, he reveals Bourdain’s color and creativity.

Side note for Foodies and the Bookish: I read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2007), after he died in 2018–I still laugh when I remember two quotes from that book:

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”


“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

But seriously, let me give some great quotes from this book (he also narrates the audiobook):

“Work is the last socially acceptable addiction.”


“Man, it was the polar opposite. From the grocery stands and yakitori joints in Japan to the stalls along the hutongs of Beijing, enjoying food was foundational. Dining out was attainable and affordable, a crucial part of daily life. Even in Virginia lower-middle-class Asian families would go out to dinner once a week at a Chinese restaurant. The idea that people with less money could not appreciate better food was a fallacy.”

I guess I embrace this fallacy.

“Cultural conditioning can convince a person to recoil from a dish that’s exactly like one of their own staple foods. Scientifically speaking, sauerkraut and kimchi are basically identical. That conditioning can also force us to cling to notions that prevent the evolution of deliciousness (and society).”


Lara: Totally right. What else have you been reading?

Jennifer: I bought Bono’s new book! I’m reading it S-L-O-W-L-Y.

I did just finish George Saunders’ Liberation Day, and I’m going to give you my no-holds-barred review in its entirety so I can get it out of my system: I suspect that George Saunders’ literary greatness is such that it far, far, far exceeds anything lousy I might say. I think he’s a genius. I try to read all of his books. He’s kinda brilliant. “A Thing At Work,” “Mother’s Day,” and “My House” all reek of talent. I shook my head a little at “Liberation Day,” but okay. A bit weird. “Ghoul”? I made my way through it, in pain. “Elliott Spencer”? It’s awful, and unfair to readers. Any hint of a theme on protest or politics is destroyed, like a brain injury destroys a brain. Over-the-top experimentation, which reduces meaning to meaningless, language to sound, Art to artlessness, experimentation to bastardization. Yes, I will read the next book. But humans were meant for better things.

I also read Bliss Montage by Ling Ma, who wrote Severance too. Both are great. 


Lara: I just read Emily Spurr’s A Million Things and reread Rebecca Serle’s In Five Years for my in-person book club. I am ear-reading Celeste Ng’s latest, Our Missing Hearts for our local indie bookstore’s November discussion. I re-read, via audiobook (and it was EXCELLENT) Sue Monk Kidd’s A Secret Life of Bees for the planner book club I am in and via kindle I am reading Diane Wilson’s The Seed Keeper for that same book club. And I am about to start Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential for a work book club. I know, it’s too much. 


Join us in December for our Best/Worst list for the year and our announcement of our January 2023 read!

Until then, happy reading!


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Want to read more from Jennifer? Check her out at www.jenniferspiegel.com

Want to see what Lara is up to? Stay right here at www.onelitchick.com