Oh, Mary

Digital Delights: Chef Dave Chang’s Evolving Brand

July 9, 2018
Jordan Curtis

Chef Dave Chang is cool, very cool. A celebrity chef in the national spotlight for over a decade, Chang is credited largely with introducing deluxe bowls of ramen to the US through his Momofuku restaurant empire. While his celebrity is well known in the culinary world, Chang has exploded into mainstream media in the last six months in a way like never before, effectively taking his brand to the next level. He’s not a household name, but if you ask his PR team, that’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Once the publisher of critically acclaimed, now defunct food culture quarterly, Lucky Peach, Chang now spreads his focus across multiple mediums outside of the kitchen. In conjunction with the opening of his new Los Angeles restaurant, Majordomo, he’s taken on a number of high profile ventures:

  1. Developed and starred in the wildly popular Netflix series, “Ugly Delicious”
  2. Served as an NBC Sports correspondent at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea
  3. Launched his very own podcast on The Ringer Network, owned and operated by the “podfather himself,” Bill Simmons

Any one of these alone would be an incredible accomplishment in bolstering brand awareness, but collectively Chang is transforming himself into more than just a celebrity chef. He’s becoming a media mogul.

Given the current political climate and the bourgeoning popularity of food, his brand is more relevant than ever before. The intersection of food and culture is at the heart of both the show and podcast. Cultural appropriation, criticism, race, the evolving demographic compositions of kitchens and the #MeToo movement are common threads throughout. Chang’s output is more aligned with the content of the late, great Anthony Bourdain than anything seen/heard on the Food Network, Travel Channel, CNN and the like.

Lastly, and most importantly, it’s clear he wants his investigation into the dark corners of food culture to be constructive, while occasionally his takes are anything but. For example, Chang is unapologetically frustrated with white chefs who put seemingly out-of-place kimchi appetizers on their menus, all while discussing why it’s more important than ever for people to travel, eat/cook new foods and be inclusive of all people. In the end, he’s confident enough to host the tough conversations and completely allows that he may change his own mind in front of the camera/microphone. While he’s doing it, he’s garnered an increasingly engaged, significant audience.

If this is the first you’re hearing of Dave Chang, then you can bet it’s not the last. Who knows, he may very well be the guest host during Jimmy Fallon’s next vacation? Whatever it is, plenty of fans will be tuning in.