Here's a question to consider, you gossip-loving burger hounds: Is David Chang on the verge of opening a burger concept restaurant? Here are the facts of the case.
ITEM: Last month, Chef Chang's Fuku opened in NYC to rave reviews, cementing the prolific cookman's foothold in the hotly contested sandwich domain -- a domain in which he dabbled as recently as last summer, with his limited-engagement Shrimp Stack burger at Shake Shack! Hmmmm.
ITEM: Last weekend, we caught up with Chang at Bud And Burgers, an amateur burger showcase/competition/party thrown by Budweiser. (Disclosure: Anheuser-Busch paid for Thrillist's travel & accommodations.) Naturally, we asked him about burgers. Naturally, the ebullient emperor of the ever-expanding momofuku empire said some fascinating burger-related shit. Hmmmm!
ITEM: Today, Chang's Lucky Peach imprint published an article by the chief chef titled "My Burger Manifesto." As you might expect, it contains more fascinating burger-related shit. HMMMMMMMM!
It certainly seems like this master chef is maneuvering his various forces to stir up a burger frenzy around him. Coincidence? Perhaps. Maybe we're reaching. After all, what would the goal be? It couldn't be that Chef Chang is girding himself and his gluttonous legions for an announcement, right?! He can't be about to announce that a brand-new burger concept was about to join the ranks of momofuku restaurant group, can he?!
ITEM: The until-now unseen transcript of our interview with the man himself, in which Thrillist bravely asks that very question. What does David Chang have to say about the possibility of a momofuku burger concept? HMMMMMMMMMM? Read on to find out.
(Interview has been condensed & edited for clarity.)
Thrillist: Give us your top-down view on the state of the American burger in 2015.
Chang: The state of the burger is this: it’s really great to eat burgers now! [laughs] Any time you can have a conversation with a buddy from LA and a buddy from New York, and literally get in a heated debate over In-N-Out vs. Shake Shack… it’s good! I don’t care, I’m not gonna choose [between In-'N-Out and Shake Shack.] I’m gonna say both are great. And you know what? They are both great.
Everybody is serving a good burger [right now]... well, not everybody. Listen, there are few places where I think it’s hard to get a good burger. Countries, I won’t mention them... many in the Southern Hemisphere, but, in English-speaking Southern Hemisphere countries, where they put beet on their burger [laughs] literally beets, beet root. I don’t understand that. [Note: Australia is known for its traditional beetroot-topped burgers; Chef Chang has a restaurant in Sydney. Hmm.]
In-'N-Out and Shake Shack are examples of totally different ways to bring quality burgers to the masses. Do you thi—
[Interrupting] Oh, anything that’s populist sucks! [Laughs maniacally] Anything that’s populist sucks. Anything that people like, obviously sucks. [Laughs again] I’m joking, I’m joking!
You made a burger with Shake Shack last summer for its 10th anniversary. I didn't get one.
The Shrimp Stack! Dude, it was great. I thought it was really good! I was shocked.
In your mind, what’s the price of a good cheeseburger?
I think not just cheeseburgers, [but] in general, food is too cheap. And it’s unfortunate because food is too expensive for most people. So there’s something... somebody that’s much smarter than me, with math skills that involve letters, has to figure it out. Because I can’t do it. I can only support like, education of how to cook stuff, and good practice of buying from good farmers.
But I do feel that food is too cheap, and I think that something’s wrong about ninety-nine cent, or dollar, or four dollar… I think any time you take the life of something, it better be like, worth it. Let alone, by the way, there’s an entire sector of people that are making this [cheap food] that are barely getting by themselves.
You can build any burger you want. The world's ingredients are at your disposal. What is your ideal burger?
For me, I want simple. I mean, that’s me. Maybe you ask me that six years ago I woulda been like, ‘I want mapo tofu on my burger, and I want...' [But] now? I want a cheeseburger with American cheese."
What are you talking about?! You said that incredulous[ly]. Why can’t I like American cheese? You know, I just had Provel on a pizza the other day." [Note: Provel is a cheese-like product specific to St. Louis surrounding areas, used on the region's cracker-thin pizza.]
But you could have any cheese!
Wait, wait. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I would put Provel on a cheeseburger, and I think it would be awesome. So why are you talking shit on American cheese?
You’re incredulous. That incred[ulity] was to be like, ‘You like American cheese?! YOU?!" Jesus Christ.
I’m just saying, you could have any cheese you want.
Yes! I’m telling you the truth! Why the fuck would I not want American cheese? It’s delicious. It melts perfectly. Not like cheddar -- it melts in clumps, or it’s oily. Swiss cheese melts to fast, it has salt content... come on man! I’m not giving you this [answer] without reason! It’s amazing cheese! For a burger, there’s literally... whoever invented American cheese, invented it because it goes best on a burger. Or a grilled cheese.
Fair enough. I don’t think I’ve met anyone as passionate about American cheese as you.
Revisionist history. I just made that shit up.
Ha, OK. I won't make you name your all-time favorites, but tell us about one excellent burger you ate recently.
I had the Peter Luger burger. I love the Peter Luger burger. "Steakhouse" burgers, whatever… everything has to have a genre. [Scoffs.] It's a fucking burger, and it’s delicious. They put an onion slice on it. It’s so good!
Is it all about stripping down the toppings so the meat shine through?
It can be a lot, if you learn how to balance it. I think, again, juxtaposition of ingredients is very very tough. Often times, less is more. More, is less. I read that in a fortune cookie once.
So back to Shake Shack -- will you ever do another burger with them? Is a burger concept something you'd consider doing yourself?
I mean, there’s… we have a lot of stuff down the pipeline, for us. We just launched… we’ll see. I’ll keep it at that. [Note: HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM?!]
It's not that far of from Fuku's chicken sandwich, right?
[Grins slyly] All you gotta do now, is put a burger IN... [Brings hands together in a praying gesture.] That’s gonna be the new logo for Fuku. Hands clasped! [makes the gesture again]."
Thanks for your time, Chef.
So there you have, folks! Not an affirmation, but far from a denial. All we can do is wait and see what the next addition to Chang's ranks will be. Wait, see, and pray, that is. Pray that a burger concept is on the way.
Dave Infante is a senior writer for Thrillist, and really enjoyed Danny DeVito in LA Confidential. Follow @dinfontay on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.