“One of the biggest pros that the International Culinary Center has is its network of alumni and restaurants […] you can get in touch with anybody you want.”
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia
Current city: New York
Course of study: Classic Culinary Arts
Year of graduation: 2001
Favorite food: shiro miso
Current job: chef/owner of Momofuku
In 2004, David Chang opened Noodle Bar, his first Momofuku restaurant in New York City. Today, there are four Momofuku restaurants in Manhattan, including Ssäm Bar, Ko, and Má Pêche, and a bakery, Milk Bar, with two locations. To say that David has been busy is an understatement.
David always possessed a passion for noodles, but it wasn’t until he discovered Alan Yau’s Wagamana while studying abroad in London that he contemplated cooking as a career. After graduating from Trinity College with a degree in Religious Studies, he briefly held a financial job, before quickly realizing he did not belong behind a desk. So, he decided to pursue his real passion and enrolled in the International Culinary Center’s Classic Culinary Arts program. “I just needed a way into the world,” says David. “I think one of the biggest misconceptions about culinary school is that you graduate and you are ready to operate a kitchen. I think the International Culinary Center gives you the foundations to do that and more importantly, it opens doors for you and [has] some great, great instruction and instructors.”
His time at the International Culinary Center led him into the kitchen of Jean-George Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen, and Tom Colicchio’s Craft Restaurant. “One of the biggest pros that the International Culinary Center has is its network of alumni and restaurants,” says David. “I know almost everyone at the career placement office and the internship program… The International Culinary Center has good enough relationships and good enough standing in the culinary world that you can get in touch with anybody you want.”
After his time at Craft, David traveled to Japan where he studied the art of soba making, refining this knowledge into creating his own dishes at Noodle Bar. Despite the differences between French and Asian cuisine, David acknowledges the importance of the fundamental skills he learned at the International Culinary Center: “I would say that the French technique is sort of like learning mathematics or accounting,” David explains. “It’s the foundation of, at least, Western cuisine, but I think you can see a lot of similarities between that and Japanese cuisine. I think the reason you can see a lot of Japanese cooks working in French kitchens is because of how they approach food: organized and systematic.”
David also believes in using local ingredients and local farmers, an ideal he incorporates into his own restaurants. This interest led him to join the Edible Schoolyard New York City advisory board, a program started by Chez Panisse owner and slow-food advocate, Alice Waters, that integrates gardening and cooking into public school curriculum.
His accolades are numerous, winning James Beard awards in the categories of Best Chef: New York City, Five Boroughs (2008), Best Chef New York City for Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2008), and Best New Restaurant for Momofuku Ko (2009).