David Chang, Paul Kahan tie for top chef honor
Restauranteur Emeril Lagasse, right, with his wife Alden Lovelace, arrives at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on Monday, May 6, 2013, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — Food may not have been their first calling, but coming late to the culinary scene clearly hasn't slowed David Chang and Paul Kahan.
On Monday, the two were jointly honored as the nation's most outstanding chefs by the James Beard Foundation, an exclamation point on circuitous careers that began in other fields — Chang in finance and Kahan in computer science — but saw them quickly ascend to the top of the restaurant world.
The men — only the third pair to tie for the top chef award in the foundation's history — have been lauded as restaurant revolutionaries. Chang's edgy, in-your-face style — not to mention a deft hand with steamed pork buns — has spawned a global empire of media and restaurants, including New York's Momofuku Ko and Ma Peche — some of the hottest, hard-to-get tables in the city.
Restauranteur Dan Barber, left, and his wife Aria Beth Sloss, right, arrive at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on Monday, May 6, 2013, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
"I grew up dreaming what it might be like to do this and how impossible it might be," said Chang, who said he has idolized Kahan for years. "I'm really, truly honored. A tie could not have been better because I'm glad I'm not up here by myself."
Chang owes his second career largely to an obsession with ramen noodles, which led him to Tokyo and eventually back to school for a culinary degree (his first had been in religion). By 2004, he opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and accolades piled up. New York Times critic Frank Bruni even called Chang "the New York restaurant world's equivalent of Tiger Woods or Roger Federer."