Dan Nakamura, the legendary San Francisco–based musician and producer known as Dan the Automator, is the creative force behind a genre-defying band of collaborators: Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Gorillaz, and most recently, Got a Girl with actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. David Chang is the award-winning chef overseeing the globe-spanning Momofuku group of restaurants, which includes New York City’s Noodle Bar, Milk Bar, and Ko. Chang’s innovative approach to food is featured on the plates of his restaurants, the pages of his irreverent food magazine, Lucky Peach, and on his popular PBS television show, The Mind of a Chef. The two friends met a decade ago, having bonded over their shared affection for spicy, pickled vegetables. In the following Thread, they check in about music and food, argue about sports, and rib each other over signature scents.
From: Dan Nakamura
To: David Chang
So, I'm sitting here in some corporate hotel in Dallas waiting for the rest of the Deltron crew to show up so we can go eat. Know any good spots out here? I was trying to find a way to make it to [artist] Dave Choe's thing in LA tomorrow, but the timing is pretty tight because of this tour. It's been a pretty exciting week. I've been celebrating the Giants World Series victory! In 2010 and 2012, I was in NYC and no one cared, so this was special. Too bad about the Nationals, but they do look good besides some bad managerial decisions (by a former Giants icon). Anyway, now football and basketball season can start for me. How is your plan to purchase the ’Skins going? I'm assuming you're down with changing the name and maybe revamping the concessions once you get in there? Oh yeah, did I tell you I have a fragrance coming out soon? It's connected with the Got a Girl record with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. EO is doing it. I'll have to send you some. There are his and hers versions.
From: David Chang
To: Dan Nakamura
What’s up? I just got back from LA and Choe's DVDASA wedding extravaganza…so crazy. I don't think I will ever attend a wedding quite like that again. It was like Comic-Con meets the AVN Awards meets Choe. How is the tour going BTW? Incessant travel is only rewarded with good eating, and it’s gotta be tough when there isn’t good food around. I think that Amsterdam is one of those cities that is a barren wasteland of food but should be so much better. What was that awesome Korean place you went to in Toronto? Next time you are there, check out all the Chinese stuff in Markham, a great Chinatown.
SF Giants make me jealous…what a dynasty of mediocre teams. They are everything that I should root for, but I don't know why I can’t embrace them, although what Bumgarner did was so sick. I wish that was the Nationals instead. Seriously, the only reason I want to accumulate mass wealth is to buy the Redskins from Dan Snyder…just a pipe dream.
I have to run and get cleaned up for Ko, as there is so much work to do. It’s crunch time… BTW, what the fuck…a fragrance? Please explain.
From: Dan Nakamura
To: David Chang
On a bus at 3:30 a.m. in a parking lot in Lyon, France. Just did a show and am heading to some town in Switzerland in the morning. It was pretty cool here. Someone even threw a bra on stage. Didn't get to have the super epic Lyon meal experience but did have a good time at the market. I had a bunch of really good seafood, including three different types of urchin. One did taste like fuel though…
Remember when you were doing a thing in London at the St. John Hotel and we had dinner? It was really exciting to be there and get to eat at St. John's with you…the punchline of course being that it was a full Momofuku menu. The most awesome part was you trying to figure out if you had ingredients to make the kimchi stew.
Yeah, the wedding sounded like a full Choe production. I'm sorry I missed it but equally sorry I missed the Mapo Galbi. That is one-pan cooking at its finest!
Now I am getting hungry. Had a good meal in Paris at Thoumieux as well, but also several bad venue catering moments, most recently tonight. I know on your road trips good food is much more consistently involved. Have you been to any good cities recently? Trying to think of the Korean spot in Toronto. I think it was maybe the Owl of Minerva or something? My favorite Chinese there is called Mom’s, or Mother’s Dumplings, or something like that.
I will contribute to your buying the Redskins Kickstarter of course…. Here’s a sports tip for when you’re on the road—Slingbox! It is a little screwed up time-wise out here, but it is super helpful.
The Giants have a lot of flaws, which is what makes the team so fun. I just can't get down with the Yankees’ (and now Dodgers’) spend-and-spend style. Baseball needs a salary cap and to get rid of the DH!
Ah, the fragrance…. It is going to be part of the promo/rollout for some new singles for the Got a Girl project. It is actually really good. We picked a bunch of essential oils and did this whole combining session to get it together. Remind me to show you pictures of the process.
Well I should get to bed. It's pretty late over here.
When does the new Ko open? Are you doing a new/adjusted concept with it?
From: David Chang
To: Dan Nakamura
I'm on the train home to Virginia to visit family for Turkey Day. Probably the first 48 hours off in over a month. Probably not going to be restful with all the nieces and nephews but good to see everyone. I've been hunkered down with work the past six months. Don't know why I was so busy, but the past month it was all about the move of Momofuku Ko. We closed for two days and should open up Friday to the public. Of all the restaurant openings I've been a part of, this has been the best one yet, but also the most stressful. Lots of eyes on this one and we can't fuck it up. Chef Sean Gray has an amazing team, but sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself…? I feel like my body is breaking down. But the food tastes great! Change is good. Need to destroy to create new.
Lyon…having worked for Daniel Boulud, I feel like I've lived there but actually know nothing about it. So many classics to eat, and the godfather Bocuse lives there. I've got pike quenelles with crayfish sauce on my mind now.
The old Noodle/Ko space will probably be a new concept, but I don't know how or what yet. I was planning on doing country-style Japanese food or Korean food. But I realized that I don't want to be that athlete who says he can play two more years. I'm just not as good as I was eight years ago, mentally or physically. It's time to move on to other projects and put other people from Momofuku in the spotlight. I've lived that life already and want to transition into another part of my culinary life. For the first time in a long time I'm happy about it too. What about you? Think you are making better music now than a decade ago? Sometimes knowing more shit actually makes you worse. There is something powerful about being young and knowing just enough to do something, but not knowing anything at all, and realizing how ill prepared you are to attempt something.
Speaking of Choe again, he did the art in the new Ko space and it’s pretty rad. Only one of the murals is scary, and one is a parody of me, but it really makes the room work. I made him erase a giant penis off the wall. When you come to Ko, try to spot what he replaced it with. I don’t think I properly expressed how fucking insane the wedding he hosted in LA was. My friend who came with me to the wedding 25-hour live podcast said it best: “I don't always like what Dave Choe does, but I'm so happy he exists.” Ineffable is the best way to describe the wedding. Would you let Dave Choe marry anyone you know? The man simply amazes me. Did you hear the new album he helped make…Mangchi? I was surprised at how good it actually is.
I can't talk about the Redskins. I fucking hate Dan Snyder so much. RGIII is simply the worst…a coach killer. It will be another decade before we recover from this disaster. For right now, I've decided to just root for the Raiders. Maybe they’ll become my team forever. No one will accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon. You have to admire the Raiders—their philosophy of speed and long bombs works every 25 years. They never deviate from the plan. Plus the Oakland Coliseum is just the scariest stadium anywhere. BTW, you can't root for both the A's and Giants. That’s like rooting for both the Mets and Yankees.