David Chang Wins $1 Million for Charity on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Reboot

updated Feb 24, 2021
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David Chang, the founding chef and restaurateur of the Momofuku restaurant group, media host, entrepreneur, erstwhile magazine man, and occasional Instagram kitchen tool reviewer, has spoken out widely about the need to support the restaurant industry during the pandemic. But lacking any actual governmental support for the workers that keep the restaurant world alive, this week he took matters into his own hands: by winning a million dollars for the Southern Smoke Foundation as a celebrity contestant on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

As Entertainment Weekly reports, on Sunday, Chang made history by becoming the first celebrity guest to win the top prize, the full million dollars donated to the charity of their choice, in two decades of airing. Chang has long discussed his history as a bad student in school that led to a career as a chef, so per the article, he chalks much of his win up to “stupid confidence.” On Twitter, he joked, “My gambling problem finally pays off.”

But he also had a little help from his friends — including the journalist Mina Kimes, who stepped in to answer his phone-a-friend lifeline call on the final question and gave the correct response to cement the win. He also got some help from screenwriter Alan Yang, who had previously appeared with him on his television show Ugly Delicious, acting as his in-person support and sitting behind him as host Jimmy Kimmel grilled him.

His chosen charity, Southern Smoke, founded by fellow restaurateur, Houston-based Chris Shepherd, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey had started offering direct cash relief to individual workers in the industry — a goal and method they cemented during the current pandemic. “Since the government won’t help out restaurant workers,” Chang quipped on Twitter. “We have to do what we can to help out.”