August 28, 2014
Sep 19, 2012
04:03 PM

David Chang is apparently a playlist tyrant, for realsies

Don't touch his iPod's playlist (Image: dumbonyc)

The wait is over. The first Canadian outpost of chef David Chang’s Momofuku empire opened today and a mean bowl of ramen isn’t the only thing Torontonians should be anticipating. Beyond notable fare, the chef recently told Australian Gourmet Traveller that the music selection is another memorable feature of his international set of restaurants, and he should know — Chang creates the unique playlists for each of his restaurants himself.

Here are five things we learned about Chang’s delightfully specific musical preferences and unabashedly dictatorial control over the soundtracks at Momofuku (plus a few things we can infer about the music scene at the Toronto location).

Rule number one: no requests.

The seasoned chef-cum-iPod playlist curator plays only the music he would want to hear while dining — no exceptions. Chang tells Traveller that he operates in “a bizarre totalitarian restaurant-music situation,” proudly eschewing the musical preferences of his guests and staff in favour of his own, decidedly more obscure, track list.

There are only 4,000 Chang-approved tunes appropriate for restaurant play.

Seem like a small list? It is, but Chang promises, “it works.” His resto-playlists are each around 150 songs long, which is enough play time to guarantee that diners will never hear the same song twice during their meal. Staff may have to contend with repeats though: each restaurant currently has 16 playlists, and that’s it. (They take Chang a laborious two weeks to compile and edit). What to do if staff grumble about song repetition? “Don’t listen to them,” Chang advises, “They just haven’t realized yet that there are only 4,000 acceptable songs.” Noted.

When it comes to his preferred bands, familiarity is out...

You won’t find classical, current top-40 or techno-emo music blaring at any Momofuku joint. Ditto for “most jazz,” as Chang argues the classics are “so recklessly overplayed that they endanger our enjoyment of jazz as an entire art form, kind of like the overfishing of bluefin tuna.” Also not on rotation: any Enya, Travis, Coldplay (“Naturally,” he says) or The Smiths (“Absolutely no Morrissey. Ever.”) What’s left? Lots, according to Chang.

…and obscurity is in.

“Just because a song or a band doesn’t register on the pop-culture Zeitgeist doesn’t mean it can’t be fantastic (and useful) ambient noise.” Think music in the vein of Bob Dylan’s Christian rock albums, funky covers of “California Dreamin’” and appropriately edited tracks from Pink Floyd. Chang didn’t reveal the specifics about what’s to be on the Toronto playlists, but told the magazine it’s a good bet that “Work Hard/Play Hard by Palace Music” will make an appearance. 

Momofuku has a patron saint, and he was a member of AC/DC.

Chang calls longtime AC/DC rocker Angus Young “the patron saint of Momofuku,” and has dedicated Sydney’s Seiobo restaurant as a kind of shrine to the star, complete with photos of Young and frequent song play. No word yet as to whether the Toronto location will likewise be given its own patron rock saint (but here’s hoping).

[Australian Gourmet Traveller] 

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