NYC Chef David Chang Reveals His Food Philosophy

“I was quite cocky, but having been hailed as this great young golfer, I couldn’t even make the high school golf team once I got there. I had a big dose of humble pie then, and ever since, I’ve always known that there is always someone out there better than you, more talented. Always.”

Some people chase fame. Other people are driven by fortune. And then there are folk who are drawn to power, prestige or accolade. When you receive any one of these things, you also receive a momentary boost in your confidence and in your sense of self-worth. You may be tempted to place yourself up on a pedestal. You might feel like you are better than everyone else. And it is at that time that you lose sight of everything.

Most people know David Chang for his Momofuku chain of restaurants. Someone who prizes creating great food over offering an opulent fine dining experience, David Chang comes off as a no-nonsense kind of guy. Even so, he has clearly received a lot of praise over the years and the millionaire chef turned entrepreneur is certainly not hurting for money either. Despite his critics, David Chang has every right to feel pretty good about himself.

Except he’s not the best. Not by a long shot. Neither is Jamie Oliver, Anthony Bourdain, Wolfgang Puck or even Gordon Ramsay. All of these celebrity chefs have been placed up on pedestals not only by themselves, but also by all of those around them. And many of them have developed inflated egos as a result. But not David Chang. Thanks to his experiences as a “great young golfer,” he knows what it’s like to eat humble pie.

And humble pie isn’t nearly as satisfying as a big bowl of Japanese ramen.

Our society rewards those who toot their own horn. Our society encourages confidence over humility. Our society says it is better to be loud and proud than to be quiet and content. That’s a shame. We need more people to stay grounded, even as they continue to reach for the stars and continue working to improve their craft. It’s not that you shouldn’t strive to be the best; it’s that you must accept you will never be the best.

There is always someone better. And that’s okay.

“I constantly think I’m a fraud – that this success is not warranted or justified.”

If you were to ask Eddie Huang from Fresh Off the Boat fame, he’d tell you that David Chang is indeed a fraud and doesn’t deserve the fame and fortune he has received. But that’s another topic for another day.

In the meantime, don’t be disheartened by the fact that there will always be someone who is better than you or more talented than you. Instead, feel encouraged that there is still more for you to learn and that life can still be exciting and fresh. Because the only thing worse than mediocrity is stagnation.