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Running His Own Restaurants Helped Chef David Chang Cope with Depression

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Photo Source: Flicker/David Shankbone

Chef David Chang despite being a famous chef and successful suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, and anger. In his memoir Eat a Peach he discusses his troubled relationship with his father and his struggle with depression. The book was co-authored with Gabe Ulla.

Despite the stigma of discussing depression and bipolar disorder , he wrote the book and talks openly on the subject. His father a Korean War refugee worked hard to support the family but was verbally abusive and authoritarian. David Change says he was used to having adults yell at him. This came from his upbringing, going to Georgetown Prep, and working in the restaurant business.

His father was very demanding and critical he wanted him to be a golf pro not a chef. He criticized his report cards, activities, and golf games telling him how he could improve. In later years his father made attempts to reconcile with the family.

David Chang recalls being ashamed of how frugal his parents and grandparents were. He regrets not being more understanding about what his father and mother and grandparents had lived through.

David Chang says that an individual can have family, success, and love and still suffer from depression and mental health issues. Asking for help is hard but you should find the courage to do so. He talks with a psychiatrist Dr. Eliot and takes medication to help him with depression and bipolar disorder.

Momofuku Restaurant Photo Source: Flicker/IamChihang

David credits cooking and opening restaurants with saving his life, It gave him a daily routine and focus. His first restaurant Momofuku opened in 2004 and resulted from his interest in making ramen noodle dishes using American ingredients. He has restaurants located in New York, Los Angles, Toronto, and Australia.

Photo Source: Flicker/ Iam Chihang

David Chang turned away from working in fine dining because of his travel to Japan and Asia. He saw people from all walks of life eating well not just the wealthy. He wanted to open restaurants that could provide delicious food to those that could not afford it.

When he opened a restaurant at 26, he did it to combat depression. He had little experience. He used his depression to do things he would not normally do.

Chef David Chang says at time he was a terrible boss ruling the kitchen with fear and anger. He says you convince yourself that what you're doing is good for the restaurant and the employees. He now revisits his behavior and tries to change it.

On his friendship with Anthony Bourdain, he says he wished he had asked him more often how he was doing. All his friend's thought Bourdain was invincible and depended on him for support. There were signs of depression that they all failed to see.

His restaurant Fuku evolved from Momofuku because they served a spicy fried chicken sandwich. David wanted to change the conceptions of fast-food restaurant and offers food with Asian and American influence. Fuku opened in 2015. It offers a variety of chicken sandwiches, tenders, nuggets, wings, fries, sauces, and beverages.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

David Chang is not a food snob and his Netflix series Ugly Delicious explores fast food restaurants, food trucks, and fine dining establishments. He has covered tacos, pizza, barbecued food, fried chicken, and fried rice.

He believes good food is everywhere. He puts ice in his wine and beer and feels like he violated a cultural taboo.

David Chang won $1 million dollars on ABC Who Wants to Be A Millionaire game show. He donated the money to the South Smoke Foundation an organization that provides crisis relief and financial aid to workers in the food industry. They help restaurants pay rent and provide restaurant employees, with mental health care, and living expenses.

Chef David Chang continues to run his restaurants and work with Majordomo Media on producing shows like Secret Chef, and The Next Thing You Will Eat. He will be producing shows about culture and food. He is married to Grace Seo and has two sons.


David Chang Discusses Mental Health and His New Memoir, by Simon Scott, NPR

Chef David Chang Can't Believe He Won Big For Charity by Morgan Hines, USA Today, November 2020

Chef David Chang on Depression, Being A Dad and the Burden of Authenticity by Terry Gross, NPR

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