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Pick of the Day: Peter Chang, in stereo

Today's special: Superlative stories on Peter Chang, a mysterious Chinese chef whose spicy Szechuan cuisine tends to make gourmands weak in the knees (and sweaty on the brow) -- but whose wandering ways tend to drive everybody crazy.

Chang became something of a sensation at a series of Washington-area restaurants before going south, to Atlanta, then Knoxville, then back up to Charlottesville. With each move, the legend grows. As does the obsession, as Washingtonian restaurant critic Todd Kliman confesses in this Oxford American essay, "The Perfect Chef: I Pursued, He Ran." It's a self-examination of sorts, as Kliman writes about being utterly consumed with Chang's cooking and peripatetic tendencies both. I don't have a vote, but I think this piece ought to be a lock for inclusion in "Best Food Writing 2010."

Calvin Trillin takes a different approach in a New Yorker story that landed online at almost exactly the same time as Kliman's piece. "Where's Chang?" (NYer subscription required, alas) focuses on people who are kinda like Kliman, only they don't get paid to obsess over Chang. They do it just because -- gathering online (donrockwell.com, eg) and, of course, wherever Chang happens to be cooking for some gourmet genuflection.

Delicious stuff, and double the fun.

By J. Freedom du Lac  | March 11, 2010; 8:36 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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