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Chef David Chang's Fuku Is a Hot Mess on Its Opening Day in Dallas

Fuku, the hot chicken sandwich ghost kitchen of chef David Chang, didn't have a stellar first day.EXPAND
Fuku, the hot chicken sandwich ghost kitchen of chef David Chang, didn't have a stellar first day.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
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Last week The Dallas Morning News reported that James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang was opening three ghost kitchens in North Texas. Called Fuku, they will serve uber-trendy hot chicken “sandos” and strips.

Chang is the chef and founder of the Momofuku group of restaurants, which includes Momofuko Noodle Bar, Milk Bar and Momofuku Ko. The latter was awarded two Michelin Stars in 2009 and has kept them since. Chang also has a show on Netflix called Ugly Delicious with an entire episode dedicated to Nashville hot chicken.

The three Fuku ghost kitchens serving North Texas are actually stationary food trucks operated by a company called Reef Kitchen. Customers can order on the Fuku website and choose from several different third-party companies to deliver their food or pick it up in person at one of the trucks.

Wednesday was their first day of business in Dallas, and we all know what the first day is like. A bit hectic, maybe with a little crying. But restaurateurs with experience opening hotspots in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto and Sydney, Australia, probably know how to work through the madness. After all, Fuku has only five sandwiches, chicken strips and fries on the menu.

Back in 2015, Chang told Page Six that all restaurants should be judged on the cleanliness of the bathrooms:

"Momofuku maestro David Chang says that if you really want to know if your favorite restaurant is run properly, take a closer look at its toilets.

“Everything looks spotless — and it is spotless — but then you look at the back of the toilet, where people will never clean, and it’s filthy,” Chang shared at a Montblanc and GQ Q&A on Monday. “I think that tells you … about that establishment."


So, around 5 p.m. Wednesday, I placed an order through their website using Postmates and chose to pick up the food. Postmates estimated my food would be ready in 20 minutes.

After I ordered, I immediately got an email confirming my order. Ten minutes later I receive a text, telling me my order would be ready in 10 minutes. Perfect! They’ve got this opening day business down.

Another 10 minutes pass by and ding! “Your order from Fuku is ready for pickup!”

I whipped into the parking lot shortly after. But I didn't see anything that looked like a ghost kitchen (this was before I knew the ghost kitchen was actually a food truck). I thought maybe I was in the wrong place, but kept driving back to the far corner of a large parking lot and saw two blue food trucks.

Still, I thought surely that’s not the Fuku ghost kitchen. The trucks had "Reef Kitchen" emblazoned across the side. Plus, where was glamor we might expect from this famous chef? Other people were standing around looking agitated. I parked and got out, still unsure whether I was in the right place.

The only way I knew I was at the right spot was when I saw "Fuku" written on the box in the passenger area.EXPAND
The only way I knew I was at the right spot was when I saw "Fuku" written on the box in the passenger area.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Finally, I saw a Sysco box lying on the steps of the truck with the word “Fuku” written in marker on the top. Two empty squirt bottles stacked on top of boxes also had "Fuku" written on them.

I walked up to the window and, noticing how dirty it was, thought about Chang’s penchant for cleanliness.

A guy slid the window aside, and I told him I was there to get my order. He said he needed to see a picture of it. “A picture of what? I got a text that it’s ready," I told him.

He said nothing is ready yet. The texts go out automatically. Again, he asked for a picture of my order. A picture? What? You don’t have my order?

He asked my name. I told him. He looked around and told me I’m on the order screen. So, I’m good.

Another lady drove up. Same thing. She tried to tell him she got a text that the order is ready. He channeled all his patience and tried to explain the world is a lie. She told me she and her husband had just finished listening to Chang's book. We shared the same nervous anticipation.

Another guy came around to the front of the truck. He had on an apron, and he talked to us, trying to soothe the tension. He joked that at lunch the wait was four hours. He said they didn’t tell him they were promoting the truck and he’d tried to call Postmates to stop sending out the texts, or turn the whole thing off, and they wouldn't. 

Eventually, he asked for a picture of my order too. I think he wanted to use his phone to take a picture of my phone. I tell him I’m tired and I just want to go home. I'll work out the refund with Postmates later. Then, he asked me to, please, wait. So, I did because, honestly, I kind of felt bad for them.

After placing my order at 5:08 p.m., receiving a text that it was ready at 5:20, I got my food at 5:50. Less than an hour isn’t awful on opening day. The annoying thing was being told it was ready when it wasn't, but that's on me for going on Day 1.

Sandwich and waffle fries with little to no flavor.EXPAND
Sandwich and waffle fries with little to no flavor.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Here’s what lost me: One, the food truck wasn't clean and didn’t give the impression that anyone cares what it looks like. See Chang’s advice above. There's no restroom here, but if the window you're serving customers out of is grimy, what's the other side look like?

More important, the food was bad. I ordered their spicy fried chicken sandwich meal with fries and a drink for $14.50. The drink was tepid. The sandwich was the worst version of itself: two basic chicken strips like those found frozen in a bag from a grocery store, no pickles, a squirt of sauce. Nothing to blow my mind and make me forget about this or this chicken sandwich.

The fries, billed as sweet jalapeño-seasoned waffle fries, were not edible. The oil must have been bad. Seasoning or salt had never even flirted with these waffles.

I reached out to Fuku last night, sent pictures of the food and explained the snafus in detail.

Fuku CEO Alex Munoz-Suarez responded with the following:

"Thanks for your email and sincere apologies for the wait and poor food experience. It was the first day of operations and the inflow of orders was quite overwhelming. That however is no excuse for the food you were served and the organization of the food truck and the team."

This isn't the fault of the guys working at the ghost kitchen. They were doing the best they could. But, it’s surprising that Chang would allow this type of broad mismanagement.

Hopefully, with some more time, they’ll figure it out. Until then, Popeye’s spicy chicken sandwich is $3.99.

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