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David Chang Interview, Part II: "I have no dexterity"

To follow up his take on Australian restaurants, Chang speaks as a businessman, fumbles as a bartender and speaks about his fondness of bad, commercial beer.

So nothing is ever going to be one hundred percent.  Is that the mentality you have when you go into a business?  Essentially you have gone from becoming a chef to a businessman.

It’s always been a business, from day one I always looked at it like a shoe store, except instead of selling shoes we sold food.  How do you get people to buy your food, it’s a balancing act.  

Those principles haven’t changed because you pay the people you want to have work for you and take care of the people who have invested in your restaurant.  You are responsible for a lot of people, so those responsibilities don’t change, they just sort of grow and that’s what has happened.  It hasn’t really deviated from the first day we opened Momofuku Noodle Bar, 2004.  

I would like to wash dishes as it is easier and it is something I truly like to do or just cook in the back without having to talk to anybody but it seems my time is better spent for the good of everybody who does work for us that I do other stuff.

So you’ve created yourself as a brand and have to perpetuate yourself as a brand.

Not just myself, it’s the restaurant.  I don’t think anyone else in the restaurant wants my job.  Hahaha.  I’m serious, I’d be really happy to swap with if someone else wants to do it.  In fact, I have!  

Tosi runs her own company so I don’t go out there praying on Tosi’s behalf, she can do it on her own.  If someone else wants to do this, god bless them. 

It’s a Catch-22.  So, I have to ask if we are getting a Milkbar here.  Wait, or should I ask Tosi?

She just came here the first time (as part of the Crave Food Festival), cut her some slack.

She needs to understand Australia more, it’s so hard.  As much as I tell her about how much fun it is in Australia it is hard for someone to comprehend.  

She is leaving today; she is leaving with a better understanding.  I have no idea.  She has no plans to open up more stuff right now.

So, how are you behind a bar?

I’m terrible.

Really?

Yeah.  I have no dexterity…not very good at bartending.  My hands are total shit these days so I can’t really hold anything quite well.  

I would not want to get drinks from me.  If I am ever behind the bar, something is terribly wrong.

It was my goal to coerce you into making me a drink today.  I have an hour and would really like to avoid asking you the meaning of life.

Well, what do you want? [Chang cheekily looks around the bar]

Seeing as this is all about Bulleit and you’re a fan of Old Fashioneds and Manhattans…

Oh, I will make you one.  I will make you something.  Can you see any simple syrup?

[We go into the bar, opening fridges, looking through bottles, taking off caps and pouring liquids onto the back of our hands and licking them to find out what they are.]

How do you like your Manhattans by the way?

I don’t know.  There are so many variations and they’re all delicious.  I’m not that picky.

[We don’t find much in the bar upstairs as everything has been taken downstairs for the Speakeasy event in the evening so Chang opens up a prop jar of pickled lemons.]

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