Christians know Jonah’s story; he avoided his calling to go to Nineveh and save God’s people. He tried escaping but could not because a fish swallowed and vomited him in Nineveh. David Chang can be likened to this biblical character because he avoided following what he knew was his calling, and it took the 9/11 attacks in New York City to push him towards embracing his passion for food. It was a worthwhile decision because David Chang’s net worth has grown to $60 million thanks to being a successful restaurateur. Let’s tell you more about his journey to millions through becoming a restaurateur as well as other ventures he has undertaken.
He Pushed Cooking to The Back of His Mind
As a child, David was taken to a nearby restaurant by his father, where they enjoyed some noodles. Even then, David was in awe of the man who made the noodles, admiring how the chef would slap a ball of dough and weave it into a ropy pile, according to Time. David’s father noticed how his son was interested in the noodle business. Since he worked in restaurants, he advised David never to become a chef. His father said the restaurant business was frustrating, stressful, and very risky; thus, he encouraged David to be a professional golfer instead.
On the other hand, David, having grown up in a very religious household, had other ideas. Since becoming a chef was out of the question, religion was the obvious choice, and he once said that if cooking had not worked out, he would be in divinity school. He, therefore, attended Trinity College and studied religion, sustaining himself with bowls of ramen. David later worked in finance, but it was not the job he was hoping for, so he quit. As much as he tried escaping from cooking, he never could push the ramen he had been eating while in college out of his head. Therefore, he jumped at a teaching job position in Japan, where he found himself mingling with the cooks hoping to learn how to make ramen. Unfortunately, that was not inching him closer to his dream of opening a restaurant, so the only way was to go to culinary school.
Although his father was not happy about David’s decision, he still supported him joining the French Culinary Institute. Next came the need to gain experience, so David became a line cook at Mercer Kitchen. When he heard that Craft, a restaurant owned by Tom Colicchio, was planning to open, David asked to be employed there. However, the only open position was answering telephones, which he accepted, knowing that he would still learn a lot. By the time the restaurant opened, David had graduated to a cook. He later went to Japan and stayed for two years, added to his wealth of cooking experience.
Becoming a Restaurateur
When the 9/11 attack happened, and David lost his friends, he realized life was fragile, and the only worst thing that could happen if he chose to follow his dream was failing. To him, failing was an option thus, after returning to America from Japan, he went to New York with $130,000 as start-up capital and a restaurant name in mind: “Momofuku” which is Japanese for “lucky peach.” David had put in $27,000 of his own money and borrowed the rest from his father, uncle, and father’s friends. The restaurateur confessed that the start of his business was not good. He did everything right, especially prioritizing providing customers with delicious food, but the competitor across the street always had customers while his restaurant barely had any. He almost declared bankruptcy and confessed his lack of a business plan pushed him towards the edge. However, the lack of finances and a plan proved to be a blessing in disguise. It spurred his creativity because he had to work with what he had since failure was no longer an option when he had debts to pay.
He paid the loan he had borrowed from his father a year later, and within two years, he opened another restaurant. The empire kept growing by leaps and bounds to 16 restaurants so far. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the business, and according to Eater, the Momofuku group announced it would permanently close Nishi in New York and CCDC in Washington, D.C.
Venturing into Television Production
David Chang may not be Steven Spielberg, but he has made it known that he too can be good at production. He was a producer, host, and castmember of “Ugly Delicious” whose first season, released in 2018, got a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It carried the impressive rating on to the second season too. Although it is not clear how much he gets paid from hosting, television hosts like Phil Keoghan and Jeff Probst make $200,000 and $100,000 per episode hosting “Amazing Race” and “Survivor” respectively. If David made at least $100,000 as a host, that would be $1.2 million from both seasons of “Ugly Delicious.” That estimate disregards that he is also a producer and cast, so the amount must be significantly large.
Founder of A Magazine
David Chang’s passion is all about food, and besides owning a restaurant and hosting a food show, he also founded a food magazine, “Lucky Peach.” According to Mashed, food enthusiasts fell in love with the magazine when the first issue was released in 2011. Unfortunately, in 2017, after immense financial success whereby they were printing 74,000 per issue, the two co-founders David Chang and Peter Meehan, could no longer collaborate. The closure of the magazine was a blow even to the contributors who did not see it coming. In July 2020, it was alleged that Peter had sexually harassed female employees and verbally abused the staff. Regardless of whatever brought the magazine down, it was heading in the right direction and would have raked in many more millions for David.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee