For the December 2014 issue of The California Sunday Magazine, celebrated chef David Chang and legendary musician and producer Dan “the Automator” Nakamura spent some time catching up in an intimate and hilarious Thread. The two friends dished about everything—covering some of the remarkable highs and inevitable lows from both their personal and professional lives. Since much of their discussion focused on specific friends, experiences, and meals they’d shared over the past decade, we are pleased to present their Thread: Unspooled—an annotated examination of their exchange featuring illuminating links and commentary that dive deeper into what makes David and Dan tick.
Annotations and commentary courtesy of Lauren Sloss, a San Francisco–based food and music writer.
From: Dan Nakamura
To: David Chang
So, I'm sitting here in some corporate hotel in Dallas waiting for the rest of the Deltron crew to show up so we can go eat. Know any good spots out here? I was trying to find a way to make it to [artist] Dave Choe's thing in LA tomorrow, but the timing is pretty tight because of this tour.
Dave Choe, you may remember, is the artist who in 2005 famously chose Facebook stock in lieu of cash for murals he painted in the company’s Palo Alto offices. When the social media monolith went public in 2012, his shares were valued as high as $500 million by some estimates.
It's been a pretty exciting week. I've been celebrating the Giants World Series victory! In 2010 and 2012, I was in NYC and no one cared, so this was special.
Too bad about the Nationals, but they do look good besides some bad managerial decisions (by a former Giants icon). Anyway, now football and basketball season can start for me. How is your plan to purchase the ’Skins going? I'm assuming you're down with changing the name and maybe revamping the concessions once you get in there? Oh yeah, did I tell you I have a fragrance coming out soon? It's connected with the Got a Girl record with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. EO is doing it. I'll have to send you some. There are his and hers versions.
In addition to a set of fragrances, Dan and MEW released a bubble bath, olive oil, and a pinot noir to go along with the album, all as part of a Got a Girl “lifestyle brand.” They talk about it a lot in this Fast Company article from July 2014—Dan is super serious about it, but Mary Elizabeth breaks character a little. Hey, serious or not, what’s not to love about a fine wine enjoyed in a bubble bath followed by an olive oil rub down and spritz of fabulous fragrance? Seriously, though, the record is all slinky ’60s je ne sais quoi and a super rad groove. Check it out.
From: David Chang
To: Dan Nakamura
What’s up? I just got back from LA and Choe's DVDASA wedding extravaganza…so crazy. I don't think I will ever attend a wedding quite like that again. It was like Comic-Con meets the AVN Awards meets Choe.
The “wedding extravaganza” was a live podcast on November 2, 2014, from DVDASA (a.k.a. Dave Choe and Asa Akira’s podcast series) featuring, in no particular order: a wedding between two super DVDASA fans, officiated by Choe; a performance of Choe’s band, Mangchi; and a music video shoot. Your typical Web 2.0 bacchanalia but on steroids…and ecstasy…and acid.
How is the tour going BTW? Incessant travel is only rewarded with good eating, and it’s gotta be tough when there isn’t good food around. I think that Amsterdam is one of those cities that is a barren wasteland of food but should be so much better. What was that awesome Korean place you went to in Toronto? Next time you are there, check out all the Chinese stuff in Markham, a great Chinatown.
David feels very strongly about Toronto’s potential as a serious food city—he took Food & Wine on a tour of the St. Lawrence Market and out for dim sum in 2012, he compared Toronto to a Copenhagen just waiting for a René Redzepi (of the beyond-lauded Noma) in Huffington Post in 2014, and David literally put his money where his mouth is when he opened a three-story Momofuku in Toronto in 2012.
SF Giants make me jealous…what a dynasty of mediocre teams. They are everything that I should root for, but I don't know why I can’t embrace them, although what Bumgarner did was so sick. I wish that was the Nationals instead. Seriously, the only reason I want to accumulate mass wealth is to buy the Redskins from Dan Snyder…just a pipe dream.
It’s kind of a pipe dream. In 2013, David posted on Twitter, “I’m going to try and raise $6 billion on @kickstarter to buy @redskins from Dan Snyder. I’m serious…who’s coming with me?” The Washington Post and Deadspin fueled the fire. Chang still doesn’t own the Redskins… but never say never, right?
I have to run and get cleaned up for Ko, as there is so much work to do. It’s crunch time… BTW, what the fuck…a fragrance? Please explain.
Wait ’til he hears about the olive oil.
From: Dan Nakamura
To: David Chang
On a bus at 3:30 a.m. in a parking lot in Lyon, France. Just did a show and am heading to some town in Switzerland in the morning. It was pretty cool here. Someone even threw a bra on stage. Didn't get to have the super epic Lyon meal experience but did have a good time at the market. I had a bunch of really good seafood, including three different types of urchin. One did taste like fuel though…
Remember when you were doing a thing in London at the St. John Hotel and we had dinner? It was really exciting to be there and get to eat at St. John with you…the punchline of course being that it was a full Momofuku menu. The most awesome part was you trying to figure out if you had ingredients to make the kimchi stew.
David did a series of Momofuku pop-ups at the St. John Hotel in the summer of 2012, where famed nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson reigns supreme. You can read up on their friendship, which includes Fergus charmingly calling David “a lovely chap” and citing a shared interest in pork in this FT Magazine piece that ran around that time. Maybe read it over a bowl of the marvelous kimchi stew from the Momofuku cookbook, which you can find here.
Yeah, the wedding sounded like a full Choe production. I'm sorry I missed it but equally sorry I missed the Mapo Galbi. That is one-pan cooking at its finest!
Now I am getting hungry. Had a good meal in Paris at Thoumieux as well, but also several bad venue catering moments, most recently tonight. I know on your road trips good food is much more consistently involved. Have you been to any good cities recently? Trying to think of the Korean spot in Toronto. I think it was maybe the Owl of Minerva or something? Yeah it is. My favorite Chinese there is called Mom’s, or Mother’s Dumplings, or something like that.
Mother’s Dumplings, indeed!
I will contribute to your buying the Redskins Kickstarter of course…. Here’s a sports tip for when you’re on the road—Slingbox! It is a little screwed up time-wise out here, but it is super helpful.
The Giants have a lot of flaws, which is what makes the team so fun. I just can't get down with the Yankees’ (and now Dodgers’) spend-and-spend style. Baseball needs a salary cap and to get rid of the DH!
Ah, the fragrance…. It is going to be part of the promo/rollout for some new singles for the Got a Girl project. It is actually really good. We picked a bunch of essential oils and did this whole combining session to get it together. Remind me to show you pictures of the process. Well I should get to bed. It's pretty late over here.
When does the new Ko open? Are you doing a new/adjusted concept with it?
David closed the tiny 1st Ave. location of Momofuku Ko in October 2014 (it’s also the original Noodle Bar location) and relocated to a significantly larger space off Bowery, which opened in December 2014. Much more on that below.
From: David Chang
To: Dan Nakamura
I'm on the train home to Virginia to visit family for Turkey Day. Probably the first 48 hours off in over a month. Probably not going to be restful with all the nieces and nephews but good to see everyone. I've been hunkered down with work the past six months. Don't know why I was so busy, but the past month it was all about the move of Momofuku Ko. We closed for two days and should open up Friday to the public. Of all the restaurant openings I've been a part of, this has been the best one yet, but also the most stressful. Lots of eyes on this one and we can't fuck it up. Chef Sean Gray has an amazing team, but sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself…? I feel like my body is breaking down. But the food tastes great! Change is good. Need to destroy to create new.
About the new Ko: In addition to being significantly larger (with four times as many seats), Ko 2.0 features an extended tasting menu, a stunning open kitchen, and a menu of technique-driven French-Japanese-pure-Momofuku cuisine. Opening reports were glowing, as expected.
Lyon…having worked for Daniel Boulud, I feel like I've lived there but actually know nothing about it. So many classics to eat, and the godfather Bocuse lives there. I've got pike quenelles with crayfish sauce on my mind now.
That’s Bocuse d’Or, the big-deal chef competition hosted in Lyon annually, founded by Paul Bocuse, bien sur. Daniel Boulud’s from there, too—here, he takes the New York Post on a culinary tour of his hometown, which they refer to as “the culinary heart of France.” Note the multiple Bocuse references and a mention of quenelles in creamy crayfish sauce, too.
The old Noodle/Ko space will probably be a new concept, but I don't know how or what yet. I was planning on doing country-style Japanese food or Korean food. But I realized that I don't want to be that athlete who says he can play two more years. I'm just not as good as I was eight years ago, mentally or physically. It's time to move on to other projects and put other people from Momofuku in the spotlight. I've lived that life already and want to transition into another part of my culinary life. For the first time in a long time I'm happy about it too. What about you? Think you are making better music now than a decade ago? Sometimes knowing more shit actually makes you worse. There is something powerful about being young and knowing just enough to do something, but not knowing anything at all, and realizing how ill prepared you are to attempt something.
By moving on to other projects, Chang is quite possibly referring to his newest high-profile culinary escapade, Maple—a fast and fancy food delivery service set to launch this year.
Speaking of Choe again, he did the art in the new Ko space and it’s pretty rad. Only one of the murals is scary, and one is a parody of me, but it really makes the room work. I made him erase a giant penis off the wall. When you come to Ko, try to spot what he replaced it with. I don’t think I properly expressed how fucking insane the wedding he hosted in LA was. My friend who came with me to the wedding 25-hour live podcast said it best: “I don't always like what Dave Choe does, but I'm so happy he exists.” Ineffable is the best way to describe the wedding. Would you let Dave Choe marry anyone you know? The man simply amazes me. Did you hear the new album he helped make…Mangchi? I was surprised at how good it actually is.
For more crazy antics from David and Dave (can you just imagine the completely hallucinogenic sitcom that this very phrase could lead to?), check out Eater’s convenient recap of the three-hour DVDASA podcast conversation. We’re going to go ahead and guess that this is the parody of David; could this be the now-erased giant penis??
I can't talk about the Redskins. I fucking hate Dan Snyder so much.
He’s not the only one. Right before Thanksgiving, the New York Times penned a convenient guide to many of the reasons everyone hates Dan Snyder.
RGIII is simply the worst…a coach killer. It will be another decade before we recover from this disaster. For right now, I've decided to just root for the Raiders. Maybe they’ll become my team forever. No one will accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon. You have to admire the Raiders—their philosophy of speed and long bombs works every 25 years. They never deviate from the plan. Plus the Oakland Coliseum is just the scariest stadium anywhere. BTW, you can't root for both the A's and Giants. That’s like rooting for both the Mets and Yankees.