Is David Chang the World’s Smartest Chef?

The Momofuku group founder stakes his claim, winning Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?—and donating the $1,000,000 proceeds to hospitality worker relief

Is David Chang the World’s Smartest Chef?
Not only is he a better cook than you, but he's smarter and more generous, too. (ABC/John Fleenor)
Dec 9, 2020

Chef-restaurateur David Chang is no stranger to celebrity. The founding chef of the 15-restaurant Momofuku group—which includes Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners Momofuku Ko and Majordōmo, among others—is the host and producer of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Ugly Delicious, host of the award-winning food podcast The Dave Chang Show, was a guest judge on Top Chef: All Stars, and has even made guest appearances as himself on HBO’s Treme, Showtime’s Billions, IFC’s Documentary Now! and … Nickelodeon’s Blues Clues and You!

Add another feather to his toque: Chang just won Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Chang correctly quizzed his way through round after round of the Nov. 29 episode of the ABC game show, winning the $1 million top prize. “It’s the most surreal thing. I still do not believe it happened,” Chang told Jimmy Kimmel on late-night series Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Kimmel is also the host of Millionaire). Winning the legendarily hard-to-win show is impressive enough, and Chang is the first celebrity contestant to do so. In fact, no one—celebrity or otherwise—has won Millionaire since 2003. “That was an exciting moment,” Kimmel told Chang on his show. “It’s a shame we didn’t have an audience there to enjoy it.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the show’s set was empty except for Chang, Kimmel and Chang’s quizzing teammate, screenwriter and producer Alan Yang. Chang’s other teammate and phone-a-friend lifeline was journalist and ESPN writer Mina Kimes, who helped him with the final question: “Although he and his wife never touched a light switch for fear of being shocked, who was the first president to have electricity in the White House?” From presidential choices Ulysses Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Chester Arthur and Andrew Johnson, Kimes advised Chang to correctly guess “Benjamin Harrison.” And the prize was his, received in the form of an impressively huge cardboard check. “Thank God for smart friends who excelled in school,” Chang wrote on Instagram.

Best of all, Chang is donating his $1,000,000 prize to the Southern Smoke Foundation charity, which provides financial assistance and emergency relief to the hospitality community. Founded in 2017, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $5.8 million to date, including more than $4.1 million since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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