Do you think the best Cajun food is found in New Orleans? Does chain pizza make you sniff and turn up your nose in disapproval? Do you feel that a dish prepared in the tradition of the old country is the only way to go?
If so, David Chang has a message for you: Authenticity is overrated and you need to open your mind to new ideas and methods. And if you watch his new Netflix documentary series “Ugly Delicious,” you just might. You food snob, you.
“That’s 100 percent one of the tenets of the show …,” the New York-based chef and restaurateur explains. “One of the things that continued to come up in our (production) conversations was authenticity and importation of ideas. And what makes something good? … And can Japan have the best pizza in the world if Japan makes everything else great? And to really challenge your assumptions. So part of that was: Where can we go to places that can help facilitate that story?”
In each hourlong episode, Chang and a long list of special guests that includes entertainers, writers and fellow chefs, hit the road to check out things like Viet-Cajun cuisine in Houston, home cooking in Copenhagen and pizza in multiple locales. Along the way, he endeavors to use food as vehicle to break down cultural barriers, refute misconceptions and uncover shared experiences.
His show on pizza is a good example. Here, he goes to such locations as New Jersey, Tokyo and Connecticut to see how the people there make it. He also rides shotgun with a Domino’s delivery man and advances his argument that just because it’s chain food, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
“I actually do like Domino’s,” he says. “That doesn’t make someone a philistine for liking Domino’s. … And I think that’s something that happens far too often in the food world, where you castigate or … judge a person strictly because of their taste in something. When the reality is, hey, not everyone might be able to go to Tokyo or New Haven or whatever and have really what objectively might be better pizza. But if they get good pizza and if they enjoy it, that doesn’t invalidate it.”
What book are you currently reading?
“I’ve been so busy, I can’t even remember the last book I read. It’s sad.”
What did you have for dinner last night?
“I had some rice and a little piece of pork around 9:30 at the restaurant.”
What is your next project?
“My next project is to go to the Olympics.”
When was your last vacation, where and why?
“My last vacation was last August and my wife and I went on a belated honeymoon to Spain. We spent some time in San Sebastian in Majorca. That’s probably the last time I read a book.”