David Chang, the founder of Momofuku and host of “Ugly Delicious,” is the first celebrity to win the $1 million prize on ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” after Sunday night’s nail-biting episode.
After having been dormant since May 2019, the game show was revived this year with Jimmy Kimmel as host. Since its inception in 1999, only 13 people have ever won the top prize on the American version of the show — just six on the British version. And no celebrity contestant has ever won the full million until Chang did it.
Like the winnings of the celebrities who have competed since the show was revived this year, Chang’s million dollars went to a charity of his choice. He picked the Southern Smoke Foundation, a Houston-based crisis relief organization for people working in the hospitality industry.
After 15 rounds of grueling trivia, the million-dollar question was a tense one, as Chang used his last lifeline to phone a friend to help him answer “Although he and his wife never toughed a light switch for fear of being shocked, who was the first president to have electricity in the White House?
Chang called ESPN analyst and journalist Mina Kimes, who, herself unsure, answered “probably [Benjamin] Harrison.”
Fans and friends tweeted about Kimes with excitement and praise after the episode aired.
An uncertain Chang pondered for a few sweat-inducing minutes before finally choosing to go with Kimes’s answer and take the risk instead of walk away with a $500,000 donation.
“My Asian gambling genes are very strong in me, because that’s what overrided any common sense,” Chang said Monday morning in a conversation with Kimmel on his podcast, “The Dave Chang Show.”
As his victory was announced, digital confetti exploded on the screen and a shocked Chang jumped out of his chair to elbow-bump Kimmel.
There was no studio audience to cheer him on, so Chang described the sweet feeling of victory in a room that was empty except for himself, Kimmel and a friend, the Emmy-nominated director Alan Yang, whom Chang also used as a lifeline.
“I still don’t understand that it happened,” Chang said. “It was the most out-of-body experience. I don’t know what happened.”
He also spoke about the impact he hopes the money will have on Southern Smoke, an organization that donates to small-business owners or food service workers when they’re experiencing debt or other crises.
“I wanted to raise some awareness for the restaurant industry,” he said. “Southern Smoke wasn’t able to do their annual charity drive because of Covid. … I was over the moon that we could do that, because it’s been a ridiculously tough year. I was like, man, I want the world to see just what people in the industry would do.”