Forbes appears to have posted a new profile of David Chang, which I would probably have linked to even if it hadn’t terrified me:
David Chang wants me to put on a hairnet. He hands one to me as he pushes open a dented, unmarked door in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that hides the entrance to the baking operation of Momofuku Milk Bar–the dessert capital of his culinary kingdom. Inside, Chang’s addictive Crack Pie batter churns in industrial mixers and an endless stream of raw Compost Cookies slide by on conveyer belts. Even for the casual foodie, this is Willy Wonka territory–but I’m about to glimpse something even more elusive.
We walk by shelves of Ritz Crackers, Crisco and cornflakes to another scuffed door. “You’re only the fifth civilian to ever see this,” Chang says as he leads me to his windowless Momofuku culinary lab, where his team of food scientists and chefs are trying to invent new tastes for his growing restaurant empire. “I don’t know any other way to get my guys to embrace failure,” he says. ”I just want them to go for the big fuckup.”
There have been a lot of those in the five years Chang has run the lab. Hundreds of turkeys have been sacrificed in his noble attempt to create the perfect turducken. Experiments with modern gear to make ancient rice paper, rice noodles and rice balls were all disasters. Then there was the pressure cooker explosion that almost destroyed the place. “The top cracked in half–lima beans were going at 1,000 miles per hour . It looked like a grenade went off,” Chang says, as he shakes his head and laughs. “It was scary. I feel like something really bad could have happened.”
I’ve long suspected that Momo’s “secret” R&D lab was in my neighborhood, but I had no idea I was ever in any actual danger. Which makes this passage from a bit later on that much funnier/scarier:
I witness Dave Chang cook only once during my week with him. We are at Booker and Dax–Momofuku’s chemistry set turned cocktail bar (liquid nitrogen, centrifuges, rotary evaporators and a seltzer machine that could carbonate the East River). It’s cooking in its most primal form–adding heat to meat. In this case, Chang is blasting a salmon filet to demonstrate the Searzall, a Momofuku-made blowtorch invented by David Arnold, the mad food scientist who runs the Momofuku Chinatown equipment lab Chang declares too dangerous to visit.
The Booker & Dax R&D office is literally two doors down from a VFX shop I work for periodically, and I’ve often spied Dave Arnold through the storefront windows tinkering with all manner of weird shit (mostly drinks, to be honest) on my walk to and from work. Perhaps I’ll walk on the West side of Eldridge from now on.