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Why David Chang Will Never Eat at a Poke Shop

Raw fish sitting in a tub isn’t for the restaurateur

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

You’ll never see David Chang in a poke restaurant. The renowned restaurateur came on the latest House of Carbs episode to explain why. And it isn’t just about the freshness of the raw fish involved.

"I can’t do it," he told Joe House and Bill Simmons. "I can’t do it because I look at this place, and they have already-chopped-up fish, like tubs of fish, chopped up and seasoned, just waiting to be scooped out into a bowl. That’s just not how I want to eat raw fish."

Chang has featured poke on the menus of a couple of his restaurants, but those were exceptions.

"Poke is on so many menus," he said. "Before I get myself in trouble, two of my restaurants had poke on [the menu], our Las Vegas restaurant and our restaurant in Chelsea: Nishi. And I almost lost my mind when I saw that the team put poke on. And then I realized that the chef that put it on was Hawaiian. And the sous chef in Las Vegas was Hawaiian as well. So my only way you could serve it is if you actually, you didn’t have to be from Hawaii, but you have to have a story. You can’t just be like, ‘Well, I saw it on YouTube and I thought it’d be cool to put on the menu.’"

But the places that treat raw fish the way Chipotle does beans and rice? Forget it.

"You’re talking about massive amounts of fish, raw fish," Chang said. "I would question the provenance of a lot of the seafood. How can it be done that cheaply? Really good fish is very expensive."

And it’s not even a coastal thing — Chang said the "logistics are so good" that even places far from the ocean can get decent fish. His opposition is more all-encompassing.

"I’m not trying to diminish [poke]," he said. "People love poke, and I have a couple friends that actually run poke shops. I’m just saying, I will never eat at any of them."

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.