After Anthony Bourdain’s death, chef David Chang spoke openly about his own struggles with depression on his podcast, The Dave Chang Show. “I believe that depression affects Koreans a lot. It’s something that, in the past, particularly in an Asian household, the idea that you could get help for this was insane,” he said. He spoke about seeking therapy, and the financial difficulty of doing so, as well as paranoia and a nihilistic view about his future. And now, he is expanding on that story with a new memoir.
Eat a Peach is described as a “part memoir, part philosophical thesis” about Chang’s relationship with his mental health. The title is clearly a reference to his restaurant empire (momofuku meaning “lucky peach,”) but also perhaps references T. S. Elliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” in which the narrator asks “Do I dare to eat a peach?” in the middle of his fretful musings on life and self-image. Then again, Chang is a big fan of the Allman Brothers Band, so maybe it’s a reference to their Eat a Peach album. With the help of co-writer Gabe Ulla (a former Eater staffer and current Eater contributor), Peach “explains the ideas that guide [Chang] and demonstrates how cuisine is a weapon against complacency and racism.”
Recently, more chefs and restaurant workers have been attempting to destigmatize mental health struggles in an industry that often still values long working hours in a high-stress environment, normalizes drug and alcohol use, encourages verbal abuse, and insists that those who can’t “handle” it aren’t meant for the kitchen anyway. Initiatives like “I Got Your Back” and Kat Kinsman’s Chefs With Issues attempt to open the conversation and provide support, but change is slow. Outside of the restaurant world, there is also a strong stigma against therapy in many Asian-American households, partially fueled by racist “model minority” stereotypes. As illustrated by Chang’s book cover, changing both of these cultures can probably feel like a Sysiphian task. The book will be published in April 2020.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.