We wanted to do something different [with Netflix shows Ugly Delicious and Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner], perhaps something that hadn’t really been done before [in other travelogues]. We didn’t [go into filming] with all the answers. We were discovering and learning as much as the viewers along the way.
All my guests [such as Chrissy Teigen and Seth Rogen] have been memorable and were not just randomly picked. They were people I thought would be cool to hang out with, who I wanted to know more about, who I imagined had a version of themselves that the viewers might not have seen before.
Great food can be found in most places if you look hard enough. That being said, there is obviously a degree of research [that goes into selecting our destinations]. It wasn’t just about the food, but the story of the food in that particular place.
We didn’t want [the now-defunct publication] Lucky Peach to do what was in normal food magazines – we wanted to tell stories, and the content was stuff that intrigued us. Thankfully, the readership felt the same.
[My must-visit but lesser-known culinary destinations include] Sao Paulo, Brazil, because the hot mortadella sandwich they do at the market in the middle of the city is the best thing ever; Singapore, for all the versions of chilli crab they have; and Maryland in the United States, because you can get the most delicious blue crabs there.
Travel broadens so many things, and that includes my experience with food. It is now at the point where I don’t look at travel and food as two separate things. For me, they are connected.
The pressure of being a restaurateur has increased since I started out. Pressure on the restaurant itself, on me, on the staff – there is no room to fail. Growing and learning from failures can be constructive, but there just isn’t time for that anymore.
When I first started out [in restaurants], I knew I wanted it to be all about the food. I can remember when I was a cook at a restaurant, the manager told me that research showed the most important thing guests look at is service, and I was like, no, it has to all be about the food. I would still give that advice. Make the food the most important thing.
When we opened up Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney, I was travelling between New York and Australia roughly every two weeks for just over two years – so you can imagine how long I was in the air. [To prepare for long-haul flights], find a good lounge where you can relax beforehand, drink plenty of water and, if you are travelling that much, keep yourself busy in the air and be productive with your time.
There is probably this misconception that chefs are cooking at home every night. For me, that certainly isn’t true, because I travel so much and am so busy. However, Pedialyte, eggs, noodles, bacon and fish sauce are usually in my fridge at home.
Three unique food magazines that’ll stimulate more than your appetite
Each biannual issue centres on one location, giving readers a 360-degree perspective on the food, culture and history of a specific place.
Each issue investigates the meaning and significance behind our global coffee culture by looking at aspects of the humble drink that go beyond bean and cup.
Food today is an inherently political subject. The title’s goal is to get people talking about prominent issues prevalent within food ecosystems.
To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine