The Truth About Anthony Bourdain's Relationship With David Chang

In the new documentary "Roadrunner," about the life of late television personality Anthony Bourdain, many of the chef's closest friends and family were interviewed — one of them being David Chang, the restaurateur behind the Momofuku restaurant group and likewise TV star who had formed a close relationship with Bourdain in the latter part of his life.

"He's a genuine guy," Anthony Bourdain explained to The New York Times in a profile on Chang in 2012, describing why people should expect Chang to use profanity on the new PBS show "The Mind of a Chef." Added Bourdain, "He can't help himself. He shows you the way he feels." That probably explains why the two got along so well. Neither fit the refined image of Julia Child and the other celebrity chefs that both Bourdain and Chang scorned.

It appears the two met in the latter half of the 2000s, as culled from a moderated discussion both appeared in in the year 2010 (later uploaded to YouTube). Though both said their first meeting was "a blur," Bourdain talked about a memory of his wife taking him to Chang's restaurant Momofuku Ssäm for his birthday — and the meal was so amazing that Bourdain became determined to meet the chef. Momofuku Ssäm opened in 2006 and Bourdain married for the second time in 2007, so they probably met either in 2007 or 2008.

By 2009, they were already declaring things they share disdain for, as Grub Street reported. And as Grub Street also wrote the year after, Bourdain decided to devote a chapter of his 2010 book "Medium Raw" to a profile of David Chang with quotes like "If God were to exist, I'd rather burn in hell." Chang and Bourdain may have only known each other for the last decade of Bourdain's life, but their friendship seemingly took off immediately.

Bourdain and Chang seemed to drift apart

After Anthony Bourdain's death in 2018, David Chang repeatedly expressed regret for not being able to do more to save him. In a video Entertainment Weekly uploaded to Daily Motion, Chang is quoted as expressing remorse over acknowledging there were signs that Bourdain was not well, yet never asking, "Is everything ok, Tony?"

Other thoughts surfaced when Chang was ready to talk about Bourdain on his eponymous podcast in 2018. "I regret not getting to see him more the past couple of years," The Daily Beast quotes him as saying, "but he was on the road and he wanted to spend time with his kid." He later elaborated in the Bourdain documentary "Roadrunner," as The New York Post reports, that the world Bourdain inhabited grew smaller and smaller as the late star could never go anywhere without being recognized: "It was just an incessant, non-stop barrage," Chang said of Bourdain's overwhelming fame.

However, Chang also was on the receiving end of Bourdain's conflicted feelings that surfaced in his final years. Chang admitted in "Roadrunner" that Bourdain told him he would never be a good father — something he rationalized in the film as being a projection of Bourdain's own feelings of inadequacy in fatherhood. That's why, as Slate writes, Chang appears at the end of the film with his own smiling baby. As Chang quite emotionally discusses the larger than life figure in the film, it's clear Anthony Bourdain was a massive presence in his life — a presence that will be hard to fill.

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