Ugly Delicious, David Chang’s documentary series that made a splash on Netflix in 2018, is back for round two, with four new episodes available on the streaming platform as of March 6. This new season takes Chang and guests like Padma Lakshmi, Nick Kroll, and Bill Simmons to locales near and far, from Istanbul to Sydney to Tokyo to Mumbai. The series continues to explore culture through the lens of food, with these new episodes honing in on feeding babies and children (“Kids’ Menu”), the expansive world of Indian cuisine (“Don’t Call It Curry”), the myths and misconceptions about steak (“Steak”), and the plethora of cuisines that often get grouped together as “Middle Eastern” or “Mediterranean” food (“As the Meat Turns”).
Eater reached out to the Momofuku founder to learn more about the making of Season 2, the decision to document his wife Grace Seo Chang’s pregnancy, and hopes for the future of Ugly Delicious. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Eater: How did Season 2 of Ugly Delicious come together? How soon after the first season’s release did you start on Season 2, and how did you fit it in with everything else going on in your life?
David Chang: We filmed the second season of Ugly Delicious almost two years after we wrapped the first season. Frankly, Ugly Delicious is a really difficult show to make because we’re trying to do two things at once: We’re traveling around the world learning about these different subjects, while also getting to know the people on the show. It’s a lot to pack in, and that’s why we ended up doing two different shows. [Ed. note: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, Chang’s other Netflix food show, debuted in October 2019.] I think of Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner as sort of the B-side to Ugly Delicious. It allowed us to focus on just one aspect — traveling and talking with people — while Ugly Delicious remains this big, sprawling exploration.
As for how I fit this in with everything else, there’s just less and less separation between my life and the shows, as you can see in the “Babies” episode.
How did the response to Season 1—including some comments about the diversity of guests, as well as how certain topics like barbecue were represented—inform the making of Season 2?
The response to Season 1 was overwhelmingly positive — it still has 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — which is really unnerving for someone like me who doesn’t trust positive feedback at all. So after last season, I read any and all criticism about the show and how we approached different narratives, and we learned a lot. The whole premise of Ugly Delicious is about being comfortable with saying “I don’t know” and striving to be better. The only thing I trust less than positive feedback is people who think they have all the answers. So, if Season 2 of Ugly Delicious hadn’t built on what we learned from Season 1, then what would be the point?
How did you land on these four episodes and their themes, some of which — for example, parenthood — seem to be a departure from the themes in the first season?
This time around, we really wanted to lean into things we were clueless about. And there was nothing I knew less about than being a dad. I really wanted to understand what was in store for me and how other parents approached feeding and caring for their children.
The same applies for Indian food and for what’s referred to as “Middle Eastern” food. In the past few years, I’ve realized that there are huge gaps in my understanding of the world. One of the big revelations from Season 1, for me, was learning that al pastor originates in Lebanon. Whether it’s the spice trade or the vertical spit, these are cultures and traditions that have completely defined the world. For my own sake, I needed to know more.
As for steak, we went in with this idea you could tell a lot about someone by how they order their steak. In the end, it became clear that we had no idea what we were talking about, which I love.
How was it getting so deeply personal in some of those episodes, like the one in which you show the birth of baby Hugo?
It’s a lot, especially because it’s not just me anymore. It’s my wife Grace’s life and Hugo’s life, too. I think Grace was really brave to share her pregnancy experience, and I hope that other parents will get something from it.
Where do you see Ugly Delicious fitting within the broader food TV landscape?
We try to make a show that uses food as a conduit for understanding culture, because that’s how I approach the world. I’m grateful that the TV landscape allows for Ugly Delicious to exist, but I’m not the person to say how it fits into things.
What does the future look like for Ugly Delicious? Any more seasons planned?
Like I said, Ugly Delicious is a hard show to make, but it’s near and dear to my heart. As long as there are more topics for us to learn about, I’d love to keep doing it.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.