David Chang Makes Surprising Admission About His Mental Health

GQ once described eating at David Chang's Momofuku Ssäm Bar as "falling in love with a woman whose language you don't speak — captivating but mystifying." Eater has since praised the restaurant as a once "kimchi-laced, offal-laden, ham-slinging hangout" that helped turn New York's East Village into a gastronomic gem. But in 2007, even as GQ hailed him as one of the most "exciting chef's in America," he told the magazine, "I spend most of my days trying to keep my s*** together."

Today, it's indisputable that Chang is a success. You'll recognize the celebrity chef from PBS' Mind of a Chef or Netflix's Ugly Delicious. But back when Alan Richman interviewed Chang for GQ, Chang predicted that he would become "an absolute failure and the Momofuku crew will end up poor, destitute, and homeless, consulting to T.G.I. Friday's." Around Momofuku, he was known for losing his temper and punching holes in his walls. Was he happy? GQ wondered. The only expressions that Richman observed on his face was a "big dimpled smile and ... deadpan despair." 

Now, Chang, on the verge of releasing a memoir, Eat a Peach, which will be excerpted in People on Friday, September 4, is getting real with the world. The expressions Richman first wrote about in 2007? They're probably because Chang is bipolar. According to Chang, the disorder "has given me the very best of myself as a chef and the very worst of me as a chef."

How being bipolar has shaped David Chang

Chang met his wife, Grace, at a nightclub, in the midst of a manic episode (via People). Before, he didn't have many partners. "I got restaurants," he told Richman in 2007. Richman pressed further. Chang, admitting he was in a long-distance relationship, said, "It's awesome, because I don't have to see her." 

The fact that he is in a  stable relationship now is a testament to the work he's put into getting help for his illness. In Eat a Peach, Chang admits that he's been struggling since surviving "debilitating anxiety" in high school. Before working up the courage to find help, Chang went through a time in life where he consciously put himself in high-risk situations that would make his potential death "look like an accident." 

Part of this story, Chang's already told on his podcast, The David Chang Show, when opened up about his depression in the wake of Anthony Bourdain's suicide (via Tasting Table). "My early days at Momofuku were simply because we were not going to be around in 10 years," Chang told listeners, "I made almost every decision like it was going to be a one-way ticket." Momofuku, on top of a therapist, became his "vehicle to fight depression." 

Even today, Chang considers himself to be "a work in progress." According to People, he hopes that Eat a Peach will start a conversation about the mental health struggles that are often dangerously muted in our society.