I Listened to the First Dave Chang Podcast So You Don't Have To

The Dave Chang Podcast with guest Bill Simmons appeared on iTunes about a week ago and I’ve been avoiding listening ever since.

I’m a food writer, food lover, and avid food tv consumer, so Chang’s Ugly Delicious on Netflix seemed like it was made for me. “Seemed” being the operative word, because it kind of drove me crazy—too broey, scattered, and feigning intellectualism while displaying a frustrating lack of self-awareness. But I also spend far too much time listening to podcasts, so maybe this deserved a chance? Or maybe I just like to torture myself.

And then there’s Bill Simmons. I used to read his stuff. I don’t know whether I liked him or liked to hate him, but I do know his shtick has worn thin. The idea of listening to him talk about food, a topic he knows next to nothing about, is painful to me. Even listening to him talk about basketball, a topic he supposedly knows something about, is pretty painful lately.

Nevertheless, I decided I’d take one for the team and listen to these two notorious blowhards talk over each other while recording my thoughts in an old-school Simmons-style running diary (remember when he used to write?), because sometimes you have to rewatch the 1986 World Series to remember the joy of 2003. Or something. Go Sox!

The things I do for my readers…

Before we get started, though, I followed yet another Simmons trope and devised a drinking game to help me through the upcoming 47-minute ordeal. So if you do decide to listen for yourself, grab a Ringer approved Miller Lite and play along as I take a sip each time any of the following come up:

  • Jimmy Kimmel

  • Kobe Bryant

  • Adam Perry-Lang

  • John McEnroe

  • Jonathan Gold

  • Mario Batali

  • Tiger Woods. Finish your drink for a waitress joke.

  • Joe House. Finish your drink for a House cameo.

  • Ben Simmons. Either the basketball player or Bill’s son.

  • ZipRecruiter. Finish your drink if mentioned outside an ad.

  • The Washington Professional Football Team.

  • The movie The Big Night.

  • Analogy between building a basketball team and a restaurant staff.

  • Simmons compares starting Grantland or The Ringer to opening a restaurant.

  • Simmons compares mistakes made with his TV show to mistakes Chang made at Nishi.

  • A woman not related to Simmons or Chang is mentioned in a positive light.

  • Simmons mentions working as a bartender/server.

  • Food media is compared to sports media.

  • Simmons tells Chang he should open in Boston.

  • Simmons mispronounces foie gras.

That should be a good start. Apologies in advance for any hangover that may ensue. So without further ado, let’s get to the diary…

1:00 p.m.: They said it couldn’t be done! A running diary about a podcast? That’s like if video killed the radio star and then radio talked all about that. Speaking of, tune in to The Watch on The RINGER podcast network! Pop culture and a self-serving ad that includes screaming the name of “my” website and podcast network already? I’m on a Simmons-style roll. That roll, by the way, is actually a Thomas’ English muffin, loyal sponsor of The Watch, on The RINGER podcast network.

But anyway, Chang is actually opening with a mattress ad. Cause everyone loves thinking about Chang sleeping soundly on his copper-infused latex mattress. Did he refuse to do the English muffin or Blue Apron spots? Smart. Don’t worry though, the mattress ad is followed by mentions of Ugly Delicious, Majordomo, and The Ringer.

All is well, self-serving ads are what makes a podcast on The RINGER podcast network go.

1:01: Chang manages to get his name out before Simmons interrupts to say that Chang hates doing intros. Mission accomplished, intro ruined!

Simmons says he’s only on the first couple episodes. Oh nooooo! Might we actually get some experts instead? Probably just Joe House.

We’re apparently going back as far as December with recordings made while Chang was opening Majordomo in LA. There are, no joke, five episodes on that topic. Nobody can run an idea into the ground like Simmons. Bring on the Recappables pod recapping the Dave Chang pod, coming soon to The RINGER podcast network. Ok, maybe I’m also good at running “jokes” into the ground.

1:03: Why won’t you let Chang explain his own podcast??? Stop correcting/interjecting! But at least it resulted in you pronouncing “obsessed” as “obsheshed.”

1:04: Jalen Rose mention. Damn it! That really should have been in the drinking game. Take a drink anyway, we’re gonna need it…

Redskins mention! Drink again.

Joe House mention. Apparently, he won’t show up until later episodes though. I’m sad. And maybe slightly buzzed already.

1:06: The actual podcast is finally getting started. Not bad. Marc Maron called and demanded another ten minutes of rambling intro for episode two.

1:07: We’re talking the name Majordomo. Simmons loves it. It’s Latin for “major dominus,” says Chang—fancy! He also likes that it sounds Japanese. Umm, cool?

p.s. What’s English for major dominus? Which should actually be “major domus” anyway.

1:08: “You’ve been stalking the farmers’ markets. You love it!” I mean, he also pronounced farmers as “farmens” but whatever, let’s get to the good stuff.

1:09: “You’re almost like a basketball coach who finally has all the players to run your offense,” says Simmons about west coast produce versus east coast. James Harden and Chris Paul are to Fuyu persimmons and Meyer lemons as Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are to carrots and cabbage? Oh, and Chang is Mike D’Antoni? I don’t know...just drink I guess.

1:10: Simmons admits he knows nothing about opening restaurants. Glad you’re here to talk about it then! Chang calls it a Sisyphean task. He’s smart you guys—he speaks Latin and knows Greek mythology.

1:12: “How do we do something awesome that adds to the awesomeness,” says Chang on not being a gentrifier. But also definitely being a gentrifier.

1:15: Chang doesn’t know how to explain the food at Majordomo. That seems problematic. More problematic, he can’t explain the food at Momofuku when Simmons asks. To be fair, Momofuku doesn’t refer to any one restaurant so the question makes no sense. Says he often tells non-food people he makes Asian food.

I say we should all stop using the term “Asian food.”

1:16: APL mention! Just like that, as “APL” with no explanation. But, yeah, that’s Adam Perry-Lang and we’re back to drinking. Thank Yahweh.

1:18: Here comes the run-up to Chang making excuses for the mess that was the Nishi opening. And now Chang’s making a football coaching analogy, not Simmons. Whatttt? Bruce Willis has been dead the whole time? This is the middle of the podcast, not the end. Who says M. Night has lost his fastball?!?

As an aside, I lived in the same building as Haley Joel Osment on 13th Street in New York during his snow-dick drawing days. Is that interesting? Let’s do a podcast about it on, well, you know what network.

1:21: It’s been like two whole minutes since Simmons really interjected in the middle of a sentence. Is he ok? I’m concerned. He must be texting with Kevin Durant.

1:24: Chang is talking about being manic and off his meds a few years ago. This could actually be interesting with a good interviewer.

1:25: Simmons instead makes it mostly about himself. There you are, Billy!

1:28: Chang admits he’s scared of opening in LA because he doesn’t know if he can handle a bad review. Simmons comforts him by saying, “Chen(?) and I will fight everyone for you.” Who’s Chen? Did he say Chen? Maybe it was Choe, as in David Choe, but he also brings him up right after and it seems like a different person. I don’t know. Does Bill know this podcast goes out to the public? It doesn’t help that the podcast-network-that-shall-not-be-named doesn’t really hire qualified audio engineers. Shout out to Tate! Or is he now just an unqualified podcast host?

1:29: Is that ZipRecruiter’s music? My God, it is! ZipRecruiter is making its way to the ring! That’s how you make a wrestling reference, right? Just an ad though, so only a sip of that drink…

ZipRecruiter.com/Chang in case you were wondering.

1:31: Simmons brings up erstwhile celebrity chef Todd English. Ok, so it’s not Mario Batali, but it kind of is… Drink if you’re feeling frisky. Frisky like Batali and English around women who have no interest in them.

1:34: Chang blames “tiger parenting” for his low self-esteem. Can we count that as a Tiger Woods reference? No, that would be the behavior of an alcoholic.

1:35: Speaking of, Chang talks about “drinking his face off for years.” Shout out to The Weeknd? Pop culture reference!

Simmons is now comparing Chang to Lebron and Durant. He’s no longer D’Antoni or some other coach. Just in case you’re keeping track. If you are, please stop. That’s my job.

1:37: MARIO BATALI mention! Are you kidding me? Drinks all around!

“There’s a sense of dread of responsibility for chefs,” says Chang. “Because we are caregivers and caretakers and we want to take care of people.” Maybe not the best sentiment to almost immediately follow the Batali reference.

1:40: “I remember the dinner you did at Kimmel’s house,” says Simmons, surprising approximately no one. Drink.

1:41: The “fucks” are flying lately. Edgy.

1:42: “It’s like being told by a guy or a girl that you’re a nice person,” says Chang. “It’s the worst compliment.” Yeah, fuck nice people. Dumb fucks. I want to be the fuckin’ bad boy. Don’t you know I’m edgy? #italicedgy

1:45: Apparently this was supposed to be released so that the five “pre-opening diaries” episodes would lead up to the opening of Majordomo. Oops?

Chang, talking about building a team, references Simmons’s book. That’s close enough to a basketball team building analogy for me. We’re almost at the end and I’m thirsty.

1:46: Are you shocked that starting The Ringer was just compared to opening Majordomo? Me neither. Bottoms up, this thing’s basically over!

And as we reach the end and the slightly creepy theme music is playing, it’s time to note some major upsets in the drinking game.

We somehow had a long discussion about Nishi without the Simmons tv show coming up. Admirable restraint by Bill, or does he just not even acknowledge his own failure there? Probably the latter.

Neither Ben Simmons was mentioned here, but this was an old recording. It’ll happen sooner rather than later. I won’t be listening, but I know it will. Same goes for Bill mentioning his bartending days.

Nancy Silverton was briefly mentioned for “knowing about an area” of LA because that’s where the “Mozzaplex” is, but counting that as really speaking positively about a woman seemed like a stretch. Even for a borderline alcoholic like me who was trying to have fun listening to this podcast. I don’t have high hopes for much better on this note going forward. I’m drunk, not crazy.

To be honest though, overall this wasn’t as bad as I feared. Definitely better than early House of Carbs episodes. Is that a compliment? Sure, it’s like being called nice.

So be nice to yourself and just listen to Doughboys instead. It’s still the only worthwhile “food” podcast.