“Sometimes I don’t even realize I am in a state of depression because it’s gotten so clever as to how I can’t even recognize it… Every day is a battle.”
Chef David Chang dedicated the newest episode of his podcast The Dave Chang Show to honor the late Anthony Bourdain. The New York City chef, the host of the Netflix series Ugly Delicious known for his Momofuku restaurants, discusses his own battles with mental health, and the steps he’s taken to address his own issues.
The chef said he knew he needed help back in college, but did not feel comfortable with the idea. “I needed to see a professional because I was in despair. And I have had bouts of despair since high school. But I was just told to suck it up. I was told that that’s embarrassing,” he said.
Mental illness evolves with time, Chang said, and is a daily struggle. “After a 15-year-plus battle of it, [my mental illness] is an incredibly complex organism that is smarter than I am half the time,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t even realize I am in a state of depression because it’s gotten so clever as to how I can’t even recognize it. It is constantly morphing and evolving. Every day is a battle.”
Opening Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City in 2004 became his “vehicle to fight depression.” The massive undertaking kept the young chef busy after experiencing the worst of his depression in 2003.
Alcohol didn’t help the situation. “Along the way, drinking really fucked me up,” said Chang. “I had a hard time communicating. I had a hard time dealing with the stress. I had a hard time with impostor syndrome, I still do.”
He sought help with a mental health professional around the same time, and after a few “false starts,” he settled on a psychiatrist that he’s been seeing since 2003.
He said that being able to talk through his problems is the “genuine benefit” of therapy. Though he himself had trouble opening up in the first few sessions, out of embarrassment, he still went back.
Chang acknowledged that there are many paths to recovery. “You cannot assume that what works for some person will ever work for another. There is not just a universal standard for depression or neuroses or any other kind of mental disorder, because we are each completely unique individuals. We all experience the world independently and uniquely,” he said.
Chang said he hopes that through conversation and dialogue, he will help others shed the embarrassment of dealing with a mental illness.
“We all need help, even those of us that think that everything is going great. It’s so hard to ask for help. And more specifically it’s really hard to find that help,” he said. “I thought the best way to honor Tony would be to talk about my own struggles with depression… If it makes any of you feel a little bit better for seeking help for your own struggles, then it was worth it. I think it was what Tony would want me to do.”