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In 'Chrissy & Dave Dine Out,' Los Angeles and its restaurant scene take the spotlight

Chrissy Teigen and David Chang weren’t supposed to make “Chrissy & Dave Dine Out.” Not exactly.

The pair had briefly teamed up for an episode of the 2019 Netflix docuseries “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner,” where they trekked to Morocco and dug up lamb from the dirt. But Chang, chef and founder of Momofuku, and Teigen, the supermodel turned TV personality and cookbook author, wanted to work on something more substantial and not necessarily travel-based. About five years ago, the concept seemed to be coming together, and it was announced the pair would collaborate on a cooking show loosely titled “Family Style.”

Teigen and Chang had planned to shoot the series in a studio. But the start of filming coincided with the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. They ended up taking a three-year break, which gave the pair a chance to rethink their execution.

“We were able to hit pause and to constantly iterate the show,” Chang, 46, says over Zoom from his Majordomo Media Studios in Los Angeles. That also meant enlisting comedian Joel Kim Booster for their culinary journey. “That was worth shutting down production for three years,” Chang says about Booster.

What they realized was that they like to “get dirty” and they “needed to be out,” says Teigen, 38, speaking over Zoom from her cloud-like bed in Los Angeles. The pivot allowed the show’s stars “to bring the show to the restaurants and to highlight a lot of the restaurants that people may not know about,” Chang says. So that’s what they did.

The result is the new Freeform series “Chrissy & Dave Dine Out,” where the duo hit the Los Angeles restaurant scene to host entertaining dinner parties with their families and celebrity friends, including Jimmy Kimmel, Kumail Nanjiani, Regina Hall and Simu Liu. The series premieres Wednesday and will stream on Hulu the following day.

The collaboration has been a long time coming. Teigen and Chang met nearly 20 years ago when she and her now-husband, John Legend, were living in New York’s East Village. “This was before John became John, and Chrissy became Chrissy,” Chang says.

Chang’s famed Momofuku Noodle Bar happened to be within walking distance of Legend’s apartment. Teigen says she was drawn to the open kitchen and new flavors, and the couple frequented it as often as three times a week. At the time, Teigen was new to the culinary arts, but she dove into Chang’s 2009 cookbook “Momofuku,” often crafting recipes like chicken wings and pork belly lettuce cups with Legend.

“If we weren't at Momofuku, we were cooking out of the book,” she says. It wasn’t long after that she became friends with the chef, who assisted her as she immersed herself in cooking.

“I really started respecting him from the get-go,” she says of Chang. “But then seeing him emerge into such an entrepreneur, selling products, being on television, and then he became a daddy … I've just loved him since the beginning."

Chang gushes over the compliments, “She's so kind to me, so kind.”

Beyond their culinary passion, they’ve become closer as their families have grown. Chang says when his wife, Grace Seo Chang, became pregnant, it transformed their dynamic in ways that he “didn't anticipate or expect. Chrissy and John are always there,” he says.

Their bond is the backbone of the series. While Chang gets his hands dirty at eateries like La Casita Mexicana and Pizzeria Bianco — getting acquainted with the culinary masterminds behind the Los Angeles hot spots — Teigen spearheads the conversation at the front-of-house with Booster and the celebrity guests.

The timing also worked out because Teigen was eight months pregnant while filming. “I was so hungry and so ready for every place we were going to, and it just opened my world,” she says.

Most of the spaces Chang handpicked were new to Teigen and Booster, which allowed them to explore L.A. food culture in a way they hadn’t before. But the endeavor required them to distill from a giant list what restaurants they’d feature on the series. It was paramount to them that they showcase different pockets of the city and diversity in cuisine. And they needed to select one fine-dining restaurant. They chose Chef Michael Cimarusti's Providence, which Chang insists is “probably the best restaurant in all of Los Angeles, and in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in America.”

Read more: Chrissy Teigen, John Legend introduce new baby girl with help from Luna and Miles

The show also allowed Chang to dive into Korean culture, particularly with the buzzy Yangban, helmed by husband-and-wife chefs Katianna and John Hong.

“I was just excited for people to see that being Korean American, it's not just this monoculture of being Korean American,” he says. “I was just excited to show a different perspective of what Korean food could be.”

Both Teigen and Chang tread lightly when talking about the restaurant industry. They’ve gleaned just how challenging the business is. Chang’s Momofuku empire has had a wave of closures since 2020. “We're opening restaurants and just doing a little bit differently than we did before, in a way that's more sustainable,” he says of the changes.

When asked if there are any overrated restaurants in Los Angeles, Teigen answers broadly. “I get a little irked, we'll say, by the popularity of some restaurants when other restaurants are so much better. That gets me. But f— if I'll ever talk s— about a restaurant,” she laughs. To be fair, Teigen says she once told a restaurant owner his eatery was overrated without knowing who he was. “It was a learning experience for me,” she says, laughing. A minute later, she shows off red splotches on her decolletage. “Look at my hives,” she says, moving closer to the camera. “Just from the asking of an underrated restaurant.”

While the spotlight on dishes like squash cakes and caviar and doro wat and the chefs behind them is compelling, so is the unfiltered conversation with celebrity friends, spearheaded by Teigen. However, she insists that she doesn’t have a lot of celebrity friends; rather, she says, it’s Chang who does.

“Every time I get pitched a show, it's like, OK, Chrissy, it's you and all your celebrity friends,’ and I go, ‘I don't know who you're talking about. They don't exist,’” she says.

Read more: David Chang on restaurants and his own life: 'The old ways just don’t work anymore'

You wouldn’t know by watching the series as seemingly no topic is off-limits. Teigen didn’t expect the conversations to get as risque as they did at times.

“But then I was reminded of the vibe of ‘Watch What Happens Live,’” she says. “You tend to just say more when you feel like you are in a safe, good space, and you, for moments, forget that this is going to everybody across the world.”

At the dinner table, Teigen jokes about people once thinking she was a beard for her husband. Kimmel’s wife, writer-producer Molly McNearney, recalls walking in on her parents having sex four times as a kid — and she and Kimmel recall their first sexual experience. Booster and Liu discuss their years of being pigeonholed by their race by casting directors. And at one point in the series, Teigen admits she was “blasted” during an appearance on “Celebrity Family Feud,” where she played against the cast of “Vanderpump Rules” and didn’t remember anything.

Teigen has been candid about ditching alcohol, publicly celebrating one year sober in July 2022 on Instagram. She was sober for a year, during which time she became pregnant and remained sober.

But she says she reached a point where she wanted to be the kind of person who could have a drink once in a while. She had regular sessions with her therapist and addiction specialist to discuss it. She gave it a go but quickly realized she “can’t be that person.”

“I've never had a drink in the past 15 years where I didn't immediately say, ‘I wish I didn't do this,’” she says. Teigen initially calls it her “journey of slipping,” but immediately clarifies the phrasing given how much she consulted with professionals about it ahead of and throughout the experience: “Alcohol to me is just a physical poison. It doesn't agree with me.” With four kids now, she says she “can’t afford a hangover.” “I will say,” she pauses. “Just a good half gummy for me now.”

Should “Chrissy & Dave Dine Out” get a second season, Chang and Teigen already have some ideas for special guests in mind. There’s a laundry list of names: Oprah, Lauren Sánchez, Florence Pugh, Anya Taylor-Joy and Rihanna.

“We'll just shoot for the stars here,” she says.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.