Culture

David Chang Opens Up About His Own Struggle with Depression

The Momofuku founder reveals a lifelong battle in his latest podcast episode
David Chang Depression
Photo: Gabrielle Stabile

If you regularly tune in to David Chang's weekly podcast, you've heard the chef retrace the opening of his L.A. restaurant and share his experience of being a first-generation immigrant with Chloe Kim. But on his latest episode, the Momofuku founder opens up about something rarely talked about among chefs: mental health.

In light of Anthony Bourdain's death, Chang, who reveals he's been seeing the same psychiatrist for 15 years (a relationship he calls "the most regular and longest" he's ever been in), opens up about his lifelong history with depression. Here, the most powerful quotes from the episode.

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On Bourdain's passing:
"He is, to many people who've never met him, he's their friend. What you see on TV or read about in his books, that's actually Tony. He's been Uncle Tony to many of us in this business. . . . In many ways, he's been my mentor and North Star."

How he views his fight with depression:
"My depression is oftentimes like fighting some kind of invasive, artificial intelligence of my psyche. . . . It is constantly observing and getting data points of how I am trying to beat this thing. . . . It is an incredibly complex organism that is smarter than I am half the time, and sometimes I don't even realize I am in a state of depression, because it's gotten so clever as to how I've gotten to recognize it."

On battling the stigma of getting help:
"In an Asian household, the idea you could get help for this, was insane. . . .  I needed a professional because I was in despair . . . but I was just told to suck it up. I was told that that's embarrassing."

"If you have leukemia . . . you wouldn't be afraid to tell everyone, 'I'm going to have to take some time off, because I'm going to get radiation.' You can't really do that with mental illness and depression. . . . It's still stigmatized as something that is embarrassing."

On the difficulty of getting help in the first place:
"With the health care package I was on, it was like I think I could only see the doctor for three times a month, and then I had to pay out of pocket for once. . . . It was only until Momofuku started making more money where I could see him two times a week. . . . It was a lot of money."

His mind-set when opening Momofuku in 2004 . . .
"My early days at Momofuku were simply because we were not going to be around in 10 years. . . . I was not supposed to be alive. I made almost every decision like it was going to be a one-way ticket."

. . . And how it eventually became a turning point:
"Weirdly enough, Momofuku became sort of my vehicle to fight depression. It was setting a lot of goals . . . goals I thought I would never reach, because it became my therapy on top of the therapy I was going through."

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