Chef Corey Lee and David Chang are Asian American chefs who found fame first in NYC before becoming worldwide cooking sensations. Hosted by George Brown Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, the two Chefs were in Toronto to launch Lee’s new book and work with Toronto’s talented culinary students. Owners of Benu and Momofuku respectively, the two are both uniquely talented yet give off distinctly different auras of intensity: Corey Lee maintained a quiet, reserved focus while David Chang’s energy was much grittier, extroverted and raw.
Although the conversation was aimed at young, up and coming Chefs and the whirlwind that is a kitchen during service, I felt that their messages on drive, inspiration and career were universal: The price of success, regardless of your industry, is hard work, focus and good ol’ fashioned luck.
Both Corey Lee and David Change have an education based in French cooking technique as well as a Korean rooted food culture. When asked how they created new, exciting and unique dishes while employing French cooking vernacular and simultaneously paying homage to their Korean roots, both thanked their creativity and constant inspiration from their surroundings.
‘French cooking is a template for development. It is what makes recipes able to be documented and passed on,’ said Chef Lee. ‘I am always open to influence in my work whether it is flavour, ingredient or experience driven.’ Together with imagination, he is able to create the original, exploratory menu that is Benu.
Both Chefs highlighted the importance of travel: ‘There is inspiration in travel.‘ They encouraged young Chefs to constantly discover and rediscover in order to find meaning in their work, a statement that I also find to be true as a writer. Although the world is getting smaller, there are still people, places and experiences yet to influence ones life. In order to grow as a person, one must continually challenge themselves, explore and yes, I’m going to say it, get out of their comfort zone. Whether you are telling your story through words, music or indeed, food, always search for that new experience that propels you to take your next step.
With Michelin starred restaurants, award winning food journals, a new book and international fame under their belts, what is next for these young Chefs?
‘Benu is my centre,’ said Corey Lee. ‘We will keep working to make it better- How do we make it more sustainable?’
It was much of the same for David Chang and Momofuku. ‘I want to leverage Momofuku to help people out both financially and creatively. I want to give people those challenges and help them grow.’
Growth. Change. Inspiration. Discovery. Drive: These words surfaced repeatedly throughout the conversation. As I write them, they sound cheesy and overused like an overcooked piece of meat. But these are the words of two young, successful entrepreneurs who have somehow risen above the rest in an industry laden with competition so there must be some truth there, right? Absolutley.
In the immortal words of Leonardo di Vinci, ‘Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.’
Never stop growing, changing, discovering being inspired or driven.
*See more photos on: Facebook- The Adventures of Natty P