Known as a “bad-boy” of the culinary industry, David Chang is the owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, unapologetic in both his outlook on food and his big personality. He has been credited with increasing the popularity of modern Asian cuisine through his culinary empire, now numbering five restaurants, several dessert bars, and a cocktail bar.
During our Fireside Chat with Chang at this year’s food show, he enlightened us with some of his experiences, struggles, and views on the restaurant industry. We pulled out some words of advice from Chang that our customers can benefit from and use as inspiration in their own businesses.
This business is hard.
To be successful in this business, you have to be committed to it more than anyone else. When Chang signed the lease for Momofuku Noodle Bar, he moved in above the restaurant, fully dedicating himself to the venture.
Turn doubts into dreams.
Chang cited peoples’ doubts about his abilities to run a successful business as his main motivating factor. There are going to be struggles and uncertainties, use them to help guide your way.
Failure is not an option.
Chang decided that it was impossible for him to fail because he wasn’t going to let anyone work harder than he did. He lived and breathed the restaurant and learned a lot along the way. While success may be luck in some ways, he believes “if you work your a** off, you do get luckier.”
Share your dream with others.
There are some people who were on the original Momofuku staff who are still there today. Developing a core team is integral, there are nosingular achievements. You’re only going to get where you want to go if you’re doing it with amazing people who believe in your business as much as you.
Don’t be a fad.
Once you’ve achieved success, stay humble. Know that whatever you’ve become can be taken away at any time so don’t squander the opportunities you have by becoming complacent or overconfident. Always strive for better.
Trials and tribulations come with running a business.
Chang started at the bottom. His restaurant sometimes didn’t have enough electricity, there were flooding issues, he didn’t have heat or air conditioning, and he even once got shut down by the NYC Health Dept. Don’t let the tough times break you, where there’s a will, there’s always a way.
Craftsmanship is important.
Even before Chang opened his first restaurant, he always valued craftsmanship and the narrative of the people who taught him. Craftsmanship doesn’t need to be intimidating, it’s just a fancy word for doing something over and over again which every chef can do.
What’s working for you now won’t last forever.
If you think your success will continue if you change nothing, you’re going to go out of business. Set your standards as high as possible, always. Be comfortable in your struggle to get to supreme moments. To quote Chang, “Life’s too short to be mediocre.”