Food, music and technology converged at this week’s South by Southwest conference in Austin. Judging from the tweets, blog posts and Instagram photos chronicling the indie event, it wasn’t just the place to rub shoulders with the cool kids—some real business insights about the future of foodservice seeped out between the f-bombs, hip-hop tracks and food truck lines.
Even in a year when the SXSW planners included a full-fledged, food-focused “SouthBites” program (three days, 30-plus sessions) alongside its flagship film, music and interactive tracks, one panelist in particular seemed to resonate with tweeters, bloggers and reporters covering the event: David Chang. The founder of Momofuku restaurant in New York City and its offshoots used the forum to sing the praises of Waffle House, rail against POS systems and hope for a future where quality food touches the masses. Some highlights:
1. #Normavore is the new molecular gastronomist
Chang is the latest chef known for his innovative approach to food prep to upsell the opportunity in downscale, affordable, accessible food—following in the footsteps of Jose Andres, Roy Choi and others. Several tweets and reports from Chang’s session at SXSW described his vision:
“The future of food is mainstream” -@staceytrunnell
“Normavore. Just eating normal shit,” @davidchang. “That’s the most exciting stuff right now.” -@kerrydiamond, editor-in-chief of YahooFood
“I want to innovate the mainstream stuff and have everyone enjoy it” -@MiaHegazy
“I think that the only way you can affect change in a positive way is by affecting it from big business. If Momofuku can get big, we can really effect how people eat.” -Source: The Guardian
2. Fried chicken is David Chang’s new “normal”
The chef-restaurateur also used the SXSW stage to unveil the theme of his next venture—a Shake Shack-inspired fried-chicken concept to be called Fuku.
Rather than dazzle customers with unpronounceable ingredients and high-tech preparations, Chang says Fuku will draw its inspiration from consumer favorites such as In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A. GrubStreet reports, Chang dreams of “spicy chicken, animal style.” And, of course, there will be a healthy option.
3. Frictionless is the future
“The coolest thing ever is the Taco Bell app,” Slate quotes Chang as declaring on the panel. He went on the sing the praises of the new app that allows for preorders and line busting—something he hopes for Momufuku someday. “You walk in, no line, sit down and I have what you want, boom, it’s right there.”
More operational wisdom tweeted from Chang’s session:
“I used to think it was hard to find talented chefs but I realize I was a bad teacher” -@food_quotes4you
“With the tech we have today there’s no reason for us to wait in line for food, unless it’s @FranklinBbq” - @austinfoodmag
“We are successful because we made the best mistakes.” - @jmsur