Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chef Profiles: Ducasse and Chang

I've come across a couple of good in-depth profiles of well-known chefs that are worth reading if you're interested in the personalities behind the big-time restaurant scene.

First, New York Magazine had this article about Alain Ducasse. Ducasse is one of the most famous chefs in the world, but he has never managed to open a successful restaurant in New York. Somehow his restaurants have so far always failed to match the current moods and trends in fine dining. He has just opened Adour in Manhattan in the St. Regis hotel near the upscale shopping epicenter at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 57th Street. The anecdote in the article about the prim and proper Ducasse's encounter with carpe diem personified in the larger-than-life-in-every-way form of Mario Batali is priceless. (Batali saunters right up to the quiet and reserved Ducasse, who is formally dressed in a nice suit, smothers him in a bear hug, and says enthusiastically to anyone within ear shot, "This guy is fucking awesome!")

Second, The New Yorker, in its issue dated March 24, has a profile of David Chang, who has become all the rage in the last few years after opening, of all things to launch a career as a star top chef, a noodle bar, Momofuku (which literally translated means "lucky peach", but also happens to be the name of the inventor, or at least the popularizer or commercializer, of Ramen noodles). He has since expanded to a couple more restaurants, each a bit different in its concept and food, and this profile is written as the third of his restaurants is set to open. Momofuku Ko is an ambitious restaurant in a style I first heard about in Chicago when Schwa became famous: it is a very small restaurant that makes the style of food with the kind of ingredients that you find at the best fine dining establishments around, with only a handful of seats and no waitstaff because everything is served by the chefs and cooks who prepare it. The New Yorker article is not available online, but Ed Levine wrote a worthwhile summary and commentary on it here.

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