David Chang ’99 Among Panel of Chefs at Connecticut Forum’s Latest Event

‘Chefs & the Art of Food’ Discussion Includes Candid Talk about the Craft, Business, and Meaning of Food

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 24, 2018—Trinity College students, alumni, staff, and faculty members had the opportunity to attend a recent Connecticut Forum event called “Chefs & the Art of Food.” Among the panelists at the discussion was Trinity College alumnus David Chang ’99, the chef and founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, which includes restaurants in New York City, Sydney, and Toronto. Trinity is an Education Partner of the Connecticut Forum, which supports open dialogue, lifelong learning, and the free and active exchange of ideas.

​Trinity College alumnus David Chang ’99, the chef and founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, was a panelist at the recent Connecticut Forum, ‘Chefs & the Art of Food.’ Photos by Nick Caito, courtesy of the Connecticut Forum.
Held at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Hartford on May 12, this forum invited a panel of chefs and restaurateurs to talk candidly about the art and politics of food and about their experiences in the restaurant business. Joining Chang on the panel were Tom Colicchio—celebrity chef, author, and Top Chef judge—and Gabrielle Hamilton—chef and owner of Prune restaurant and a bestselling author. The discussion was moderated by Sam Sifton, food editor of The New York Times.

As the conversation began with the panelists sharing their earliest memories of preparing food, Chang told a story from his childhood about trying to cook crabs under a hot water faucet in the bathroom sink. “I didn’t know why they weren’t turning red,” Chang said. After majoring in religion at Trinity, Chang said, “I didn’t know what was going to happen next.” He started working in the restaurant business relatively late, at age 22, and he wasn’t even allowed to touch any food at his first job, where his duties included answering the phone. Chang said that his decision to follow his passion into working in restaurants was a disappointment to his parents at first. “My dad worked his entire life to make sure I would never have to enter this business,” he joked.

In addition to running his worldwide restaurant group, Chang is the author of the best-selling cookbook Momofuku and a quarterly print journal called Lucky Peach. He has four James Beard Foundation Awards and his restaurant Momofuku Ko was awarded two Michelin stars. In 2012, Chang was the first chef to be featured on the PBS television show, The Mind of a Chef. In 2018, he created, produced, and starred in the Netflix original series, Ugly Delicious.

Each chef spoke about developing his or her signature style. Hamilton said, “I found my hallmark preserving the classics.” Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, won the James Beard Foundation’s award for writing and literature in 2012.

(Left-right) Moderator Sam Sifton on stage at the Bushnell with Connecticut Forum panelists Tom Colicchio, Gabrielle Hamilton, and David Chang ’99.​
The panelists disagreed when it came to whether they see cooking as an art, a craft, or something else. Hamilton argued that cooking is a craft, but not an art form, while Chang said, “Some chefs are craftsmen seeking perfection. Others want to express themselves artistically.” Colicchio offered, “There are certainly chefs who aspire to push their craft more toward art.”

Colicchio and his business partner Danny Meyer (a Trinity College Trustee, alumnus of the Class of 1980, and parent of a current Trinity student) opened Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood in 1994. His cooking earned him the James Beard Foundation’s 2000 “Best Chef-New York” Award. In 2001, Colicchio opened Craft one block south of Gramercy Tavern. Since 2006, Colicchio has been applying his expertise as the head judge on Bravo’s hit reality cooking series, Top Chef.

At the Forum, Colicchio addressed the topic of food insecurity. “Hunger in America exists because we don’t have the political will to feed everyone in this country,” he said. “There’s a political solution for ending hunger.” Colicchio appeared in and served as executive producer of A Place at the Table, a documentary about food insecurity in America. It was produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Colicchio’s wife, Lori Silverbush, and premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

​A food truck festival on Capitol Avenue preceded the Connecticut Forum event on May 12.
Elias Kagabo ’20 was among the Trinity students who attended the forum. As an international student from Rwanda, Kagabo said that cooking is not a well-respected profession in his home country. “If you go around Rwanda and ask young people about their future dreams, none will tell you that they want to become a chef. However, during the forum I learned that cookery is one of the most rewarding careers to those who love it,” Kagabo said. “The stories from the panelists about how their passions grew were amazingly inspiring. These culinary professionals love what they do and they worked extremely hard to get where they are now.” Kagabo especially liked how Colicchio emphasized that a good leader doesn’t yell at his employees, but instead makes everyone feel valued and appreciated as part of the team.

The topics for next season’s Connecticut Forum events will include “Women Rising,” “Big Tech,” “Photo Wonders,” and “A Forum Conversation,” with a guest to be announced soon. For more information on the Connecticut Forum, click here.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli