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‘Ugly Delicious’ Travels through the Wide World of Smoke in ‘Barbecue’

In his Netflix show, David Chang and his crew explore smoked meat culture around the world


The barbecue episode of Ugly Delicious revolves around the idea that something magical happens when meat is cooked with live fire and smoke — whether it’s Peking duck, Texas-style brisket, or Korean short ribs. Since regional styles are often rigidly defined and barbecue traditions are fiercely protected, it can be hard for innovation to peek through all that smoke. And because so much pride is wrapped up in barbecue, it can be difficult for meat-smokers from different parts of the world to agree that other styles are just as rich as their own. But David Chang and his crew are going to attempt to blur the lines.

The smoked meat journey begins with Chang asking, “What if I just cooked Korean barbecue like an American barbecue place?” The chef visits pitmaster Adam Perry Lang at his test kitchen in Lawndale, California, where he shows off some new things he’s working on. Food writer Peter Meehan and novelist Amelia Gray also sample Lang’s beef ribs. Meehan then heads to a pitmaster convention in Murphysboro, Illinois, where he meets with local hero Mike Mills of 17th Street Barbecue to hear about his line of work. Back in Lawndale, Chang and his cronies discuss whether or not Peking duck is barbecue, and he heads to Parks BBQ in LA’s Koreatown for a meal with artist David Choe, actor Steven Yuen, and proprietor Jenee Kim. Over lunch they chat about how popular Korean barbecue has become and how it’s, in Chang’s words, “modern-day eating.”


Chang then travels to Copenhagen, where his pal, chef René Redzepi, is doing a very different kind of barbecue at Noma involving delicate vegetables. Then it’s off to Beijing, where Chang and Choe sample an assortment of late-night bites — the artist wants to eat donkey, but the chef opts to sit this meal out. The next day, they eat a regal Peking duck lunch with food writer Fuchsia Dunlop.

Back in America, Meehan visits Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas, where 82-year-old pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz runs the operation along with owner Kerry Bexley. Chang then hits up Tokyo for a deeply moving yakitori meal at Masakichi, and then he’s back to LA, cooking his Korean-style barbecue with an American-style technique at a party that includes Choe, Yuen, Lang, and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

Sidekicks and special guests

• Adam Perry Lang, cookbook author and former chef/owner of Daisy May’s in NYC
• Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach co-founder, Momofuku cookbook co-author, and former critic who gave Chang’s restaurant its first review for the Times
• Amelia Gray, novelist who wrote Isadora and Gutshot
• Mike Mills, proprietor of 17 Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL
• Steven Yeun, actor on The Walking Dead, among other TV and film projects
• David Choe, artist
• Jenee Kim, owner/operator of Parks BBQ
• René Redzepi, chef/owner of Noma in Copenhagen
• Fuchsia Dunlop, Chinese food historian and author of numerous books including Land of Fish and Rice and Every Grain of Rice
• Tootsie Tomanetz, pitmaster at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX
• Kerry Bexley, owner of Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX
• Masahiko Kodama, chef/owner of Masakichi
• Jae Ohk Choe, mother of Dave Choe
• Jimmy Kimmel, late-night host

Restaurants in this episode

• Noma in Copenhagen
Parks BBQ in Los Angeles
• 17 Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL
Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX
• Masakichi in Tokyo

The best Lines

“The best compliment I can give is that while eating it, I’m thinking about when I can I schedule to eat here again this week.” — David Chang to chef Masahiko Kodama after tasting his yakitori

“Beer and pork with fire create a super flavor.” — Adam Perry Lang

“Barbecue to me just represents cooking something with embers, and flavoring with smoke.” — René Redzepi

“People don’t want to mess with Korean food, and people don’t want to mess with American barbecue.” — Chang

“You’re the best-fed North Korean I’ve ever seen.” — Steven Yeun to Chang

“I’m going to be activated by Kim Jung Un soon.” — Chang, replying to Yeun

“The owner of Texas Monthly came and told us we were number one in Texas, and all Kerry and I could do was just hold each other and cry. We never expected that anything like that to happen from an old country girl’s cooking.” — Tootsie Tomantez

“Man, we’re going to eat till we’re so unhappy.” — Chang during the middle of the Korean-American barbecue feast

Click here for Eater’s complete guide to Ugly Delicious

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