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‘Ugly Delicious’ Unwraps the Magic of Family Meals in ‘Home Cooking’

On his Netflix food show, chef David Chang breaks bread with the people who matter most

Netflix

The “home cooking” episode of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious takes viewers out of professional restaurant kitchens and into spaces where familial memories are formed. David Chang opens the episode by cooking galbitang, a Korean short rib stew, for his wife, Grace, at their New York City apartment, and he closes things out with a Korean-American Thanksgiving feast at his parents’ house in Virginia. In between, Chang visits Copenhagen to dine with Noma chef René Redzepi and his family.

Throughout the episode, the Momofuku chef/restaurateur often returns to a comparison between the cooking found in homes and restaurants: the idea that home cooking might be less perfect in execution, but more perfect in intent. A dish served by a friend or relative might not be delicious, but it eclipses a restaurant version because it means so much more — it’s a gift from someone who cares. In Chang’s opinion, food prepared by a professional reaches its peak only when it evokes a diner’s memories of home cooking from years gone by.

This intangible perfection has been weighing on Chang in recent years as he has become more interested in cooking what he ate as a child instead of what he learned about in the early days of his career. It’s no surprise the menu at his latest restaurant, Majordomo in Los Angeles, is laden with homestyle Korean influences previously unseen in the Momofuku empire.

Sidekicks and special guests

• Grace, Dave’s wife
• April Bloomfield, chef/owner of the Spotted Pig, the John Dory Oyster Bar, and the Breslin in NYC; Tosca Cafe in San Francisco; and Hearth & Hound in LA (she opened these restaurants with recently-disgraced restaurateur Ken Friedman)
• Jessica Koslow, chef/owner of Sqirl in Los Angeles
• Jean-Georges Vongerichten, French-born celebrity chef behind Jean-Georges, ABC Kitchen, and Perry Street, among others, in NYC, as well as several spinoffs around the globe
• Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach co-founder, Momofuku cookbook co-author, and former critic who gave Chang’s restaurant its first review for the Times
• Sherri, Dave’s mom
• Ray Garcia, chef/owner of Broken Spanish in Los Angeles
• Alex Raij, chef/owner of El Quinto Pino, La Vara, and Txikito in New York City
• Rene Redzepi, chef/owner of Noma in Copenhagen
• Nadine Levy Redzepi, author and Rene Redzepi’s wife
• Mark Bittman, food writer for New York and former Times columnist
• Diep Tran, chef/owner of Good Girl Dinette in Los Angeles
• Evan Kleiman, LA-based chef, author, and radio host
• Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic

Restaurants/kitchens in this episode

• Dave’s Manhattan apartment where he cooks galbitang for breakfast
Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City
Momofuku in Las Vegas
• Dave’s parents’ house in Virginia for Thanksgiving
• The Redzepi house in Copenhagen

The best lines

“I don’t love American breakfast too much, although I love bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches. I just think that Asian cultures have better breakfasts.” — David Chang

“It was a time when three generations were still living under one roof: grandparents, parents, kids. So, it was like 25 people for lunch, 20 for dinner. So it was like a mini-restaurant. … Maybe that’s how I went into the business.” — Jean-Georges on his relationship to food as a child

“Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you must cook for people all the time.’ And I was like, ‘No!’ You’ve got to set your bar low. I mean, if you cook for someone right off the bat, then you’re fucked. Then they expect it all the time.” — Chang

“The most common thing you hear if you tell people you date a chef is that, ‘Oh my god, you must eat so well at home.’ I mean, we do, but it’s because I cook. He’s never here when it’s dinner time.” — Nadine Levy Redzepi on living with a chef

“I feel like, at least at Noma, a lot of the guests, deep down inside, they have a secret wish that their next dish is a steak and that their dessert is a brownie.” — René Redzepi on craving comfort food

“When I was asked to write How to Cook Everything, I was asked to write the new Joy of Cooking. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to write the most basic cookbook I know how to write.’ The other thing is that for 13 years, I had that weekly deadline of ‘The Minimalist’ [a column for the Times], and that was supposed to be short, fast, easy, simple. I can’t do anything complicated now. I won’t.” — Mark Bittman

“When I started cooking, I thought the only food that was worth exploring and learning and working hard to be proficient at was high-end French dining. And that’s sort of where I see food right now in food television, is that everything has to be this super-glossy affair. When in reality, good food is everywhere, and it’s not just one person’s perspective.” — Chang

“I think that the amount of extra cooking for Thanksgiving is part cooking to fill the hours that otherwise could be filled with emotional connection with your family members.” — Peter Meehan

“What I hate about cooking at home is that everything’s just so much dirtier, and I can’t yell at everyone like I would in a professional kitchen. I want to say something to my mom right now, but I can’t!” — Chang, while cooking for Thanksgiving


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