Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Eat A Peach by David Chang

Eat A Peach by David Chang
Read by David Chang
Published September 2020 by Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
In 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in a tiny, stark space in Manhattan’s East Village. Its young chef-owner, David Chang, worked the line, serving ramen and pork buns to a mix of fellow restaurant cooks and confused diners whose idea of ramen was instant noodles in Styrofoam cups. It would have been impossible to know it at the time—and certainly Chang would have bet against himself—but he, who had failed at almost every endeavor in his life, was about to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation, driven by the question, “What if the underground could become the mainstream?” 

Chang grew up the youngest son of a deeply religious Korean American family in Virginia. Graduating college aimless and depressed, he fled the States for Japan, hoping to find some sense of belonging. While teaching English in a backwater town, he experienced the highs of his first full-blown manic episode, and began to think that the cooking and sharing of food could give him both purpose and agency in his life.

Full of grace, candor, grit, and humor, Eat a Peach chronicles Chang’s switchback path. He lays bare his mistakes and wonders about his extraordinary luck as he recounts the improbable series of events that led him to the top of his profession. He wrestles with his lifelong feelings of otherness and inadequacy, explores the mental illness that almost killed him, and finds hope in the shared value of deliciousness. Along the way, Chang gives us a penetrating look at restaurant life, in which he balances his deep love for the kitchen with unflinching honesty about the industry’s history of brutishness and its uncertain future.

My Thoughts:
I am not a foodie. I mean, I like food, I enjoy trying new recipes and eating out, and I watch food shows. But I do not have the least clue who the latest chef superstar is or the name of the hottest restaurant. So when I heard about this book on a podcast, I had no idea who David Chang is or why he'd earned the right to have his story published. But they raved about the book and I thought it would be a nice change of pace. 

Chang has a lot to say about a lot of things. His heritage has impacted his life in both positive and negative ways; it certainly made his relationship with his dad difficult. He is very open about his battle with bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts. He's equally open about his anger management (a misnomer - he doesn't seem to be able to manage his anger) and the ways that has pushed his empire forward but also caused tremendous damage. Of course, the focus of the book is how Chang's determination to open a restaurant that focused more on great food and less on ambiance and stuffy service changed the restaurant business and helped him build an empire. It feels brutally honest and open and is terrifically interesting. 

When I finished the book, I decided to look up David Chang and his restaurants. And I found this article on Eater, written by a former employee. It is her contention that Chang has always been honest about his anger issues but he's neglected to address the cost to those he has, in her words, "abused."
"Despite the formative role that Chang’s rage plays in both his personality and the memoir, as someone who witnessed it, its scope and its effects on the people around him never feel adequately described, partly because he favors hazy generalities over specifics, and partly because he claims to suffer from memory lapses in and around the maelstrom of his anger."
"The recipients of Dave’s anger — his employees — lack the same power to forget, or to leave the consideration of its impact to others."

In Chang's defense, when he was contacted about that article, he did apologize. And while the writer of the article accepted the apology, she also said that it cannot change the fallout of the moment. And that might have been what Chang needed to acknowledge in this book, that he has these issues and that while he is working on them, he feels regret at the damage he has caused. 

All that being said, I did enjoy this book and Chang does a good job reading it. And now I want to be able to get back to eating out and trying new foods. 



  1. I follow him on Instagram. His young son is adorable and I like watching him try the new foods Change introduces to him. Chang has a huge following in Los Angeles. He has 16 restaurants total the last time I looked.

    1. No doubt he is a talent and has changed the way the restaurant world works. I wish I had known more about him before I listened to this one; I might have come away with a different feeling about him if I felt like I already "knew" him.

  2. I read that article on Eater you mention. And I've seen Chang's food shows. I was first introduced to him in Anthony Bourdain's food travel show and loved his style but was so sad to hear about his anger. Don't know if I'll pick this one up, though. I may just enjoy his food shows and call it good.

    1. If I hadn't read that Eater article right after I finished this book, my thoughts about the book would have been different but I did wonder what those who had to work with him thought about the anger issues he readily admits to having.