Interview: David Chang, Shake Shack on a Decade of Success
We’re two days into the week-long celebration of Shake Shack’s 10th anniversary, and today’s burger collaboration comes to us from Momofuku founder David Chang, who, like Danny Meyer, opened the first location of a small passion project in 2004.
When we visited Madison Square Park just before noon, the line of people waiting for Chang’s Shrimp Stack burger was estimated around to be 500 by Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti. Shortly after we returned to the office, the line was confirmed by a representative for Shake Shack to be the longest in the history of the institution.
In the middle of the hundreds of Shake Shack lovers waiting to get their hands on a Shrimp Stack, we interviewed Chang and the Shake Shack team: Union Square Hospitality Group founder Danny Meyer, Shake Shack Culinary Development Manager Mark Rosati, and Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti.
What was the inspiration for the burger?
David Chang: We wanted to go with a variation of surf and turf. I actually originally wanted to do a veggie burger, but that got squashed almost immediately. Everyone was like “David, what do you know about a veggie burger?”
Both Momofuku and Shake Shack were founded in 2004. Do you feel a camaraderie in being able to watch these places grow so exponentially and have people waiting on huge lines get the experience?
David Chang: Momofuku was an accident for me, a happy accident. I think that’s the case for Shake Shack as well. It just sort of happened and we’re just trying to keep people happy.
Danny Meyer: I think some of the greatest ideas weren’t the result of a bunch of people sitting in a room and saying “Let’s come up with some great ideas.” When you tickle people’s fancy and something’s really good, it’s kind of your responsibility to blow some wind in the back.
Randy Garutti: We were lucky with the timing; we were born in the era that food blogs were born. We were born in the era where your phone was the thing you did.
Mark Rosati: That means if you were born in that era, you were born as the people’s product. Before that it was really the domain of the journalistic few. But everybody in the world with a phone became a reporter. For us that means everyone is watching what you do every second of the day, and that forces us to be at the top of our game all the time.
How did you come up with this team of collaborators?
Randy Garutti: This group — Mark, Danny, and I— were trying to figure out, ”How do we wanna celebrate?” We want to work with a small team of innovative chefs who have really changed the world of food, and it just so happens that some of them, like Momofuku, were born at the same time. April opened Spotted Pig in that year, and Shake Shack was born in the private dining kitchen of Eleven Madison Park. Daniel did his DB burger in the same year. Andrew Zimmern has just been a great friend to Shake Shack all these 10 years. We just put this group together and everyone just said ‘Oh, they’re doing it? I’m in.’ David emailed me back in a minute and a half.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.