Momofuku’s CEO turned down the job ‘one million instances’: Inside her every day routine


“I believe anybody who grows up desirous to be a CEO is loopy,” the 34-year-old CEO of Momofuku lately advised Fortune. “It’s a really tough job.”

Reaching the C-suite of the culinary model might not have been a childhood dream for Mariscal, who grew up on New York’s Higher West Facet. However her love affair with Momofuku—comprised of a restaurant group and a line of home-cooking merchandise—goes method again.

A teenaged Mariscal first ate at Momofuku’s Noodle Bar along with her father again in 2005, after studying a evaluation of the restaurant in The New York Occasions. She later celebrated her 18th birthday at Momofuku Ko, the group’s two-Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant within the East Village. She was drawn to Momofuku’s meals, in fact, but in addition chef David Chang’s ethos of shattering cultural limitations in gastronomy.

“It felt like not a lot a restaurant, as a lot as a model attempting to deal with how meals and tradition intersect,” Mariscal stated.

In 2011, after graduating from Bowdoin Faculty with a bachelor’s diploma in English, Mariscal noticed an internet itemizing for a public-relations internship at Momofuku. She utilized, received the gig, and two months later, was employed full-time. She held different positions on the firm over time, together with social media supervisor and VP of brand name and design. In 2018, Mariscal was promoted to chief of employees and artistic director.

In 2019, after working as Momofuku’s de facto chief since its inception, founder and chef Chang needed to shift his focus to the culinary and media sides of the enterprise—in addition to his TV-hosting duties. When it got here time to nominate Momofuku’s first-ever CEO, Chang turned to Mariscal, who was 29 years outdated on the time.

Mariscal had her reservations. “I didn’t really feel able to be a CEO,” she advised Fortune. However she couldn’t shake the sensation of duty and possession she felt in the direction of the model.

“I didn’t need another person dictating the way forward for the corporate,” she stated

Let her cook dinner

The brainchild of “rebellious” chef David Chang, Momofuku started in 2004 as a restaurant group. Its first location, Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York’s East Village, sought to vary Individuals’ definition of what ramen could possibly be. Over time, Momofuku tossed East and West collectively in a wok and set it aflame—and was topped “an important restaurant in America” by Bon Appétit in 2013.

Mariscal was named the corporate’s CEO in 2019. First order of enterprise? “I felt actually strongly that we would have liked to diversify the enterprise,” Mariscal stated.

Mariscal’s hunch proved prophetic. The next yr, the COVID pandemic compelled the closure of a number of eating places, together with each of Momofuku’s worldwide places and the Michelin-starred Ko. Momofuku launched a line of home-cooking merchandise like air-dried on the spot noodles, soy sauce, chili crunch, and seasoning salt—to nice success.

In 2023, Momofuku Items hit $50 million in gross sales and offered 12 million servings of noodles. The merchandise can now be bought at Complete Meals, Publix, Wegmans, and quite a few impartial shops. In hindsight, Mariscal says main Momofuku by the pandemic gave her the last word confidence within the CEO position.

“Nothing actually appears scary after that,” she defined. “All the pieces shall be okay, since you made it by the worst doable factor that might occur.”

Courtesy of Momofuku

Constructing a dynasty

Mariscal first entered the restaurant business as an act of rebel. Effectively, kind of.

Her grandfather, Stanley Zabar, is the co-owner of Zabar’s, the long-lasting “gourmand emporium” in New York Metropolis’s Higher West Facet that focuses on smoked fish, caviar, and cheese. Her great-grandparents based the grocery retailer. Rising up, Mariscal was at all times cautioned in opposition to coming into the meals and retail companies.

“They had been horrible companies: You labored on holidays, the margins had been horrible,” Mariscal remembers members of the family telling her. 

However she didn’t pay attention—no person within the household did.

“I’ve a ton of cousins, uncles, members of the family which are all within the meals enterprise in a single type or one other,” she stated. “So despite the fact that my grandpa stated to not, I believe it was considerably inevitable that I might find yourself again there.”

Momofuku’s founder equally hails from a household enterprise, and has injected that philosophy into his eating places. Mariscal shared the very best piece of recommendation the chef has given her: “We at all times need to be proper in the long term … So, focusing much less on tomorrow or subsequent week, and actually attempting to construct one thing for the longer term,” Mariscal explains. 

In different phrases, why cease at a meals empire when you possibly can construct a dynasty?

The CEO walked Fortune by a day in her life, which frequently entails an hour-long stroll throughout the Brooklyn Bridge and “a disgusting variety of conferences”—however by no means precludes time on the park along with her beloved canine, a Spinone Italiano named after a personality from The Sopranos.

Mariscal's family runs Zabar's, an iconic grocery store on the Upper West Side,

Courtesy of Momofuku

Day within the life

7:30 a.m.: The very first thing Mariscal does when she wakes up is test her e-mail—whereas nonetheless in mattress. It’s “simply to ensure there aren’t any fires that occurred the evening earlier than,” she stated.

8:00 a.m.: Mariscal takes her “ridiculous” Spinone Italiano, Carmela, off-leash in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or Fort Greene Park. “She’s named after Carmela Soprano,” Mariscal stated.

Visiting the park each morning with Carmela has been a “internet constructive” for Mariscal’s psychological wellness, because it forces her to give attention to her private life and get some recent air earlier than digging into work.

8:30 a.m.: Mariscal returns house from the park and will get to work at her desk. “The very first thing I do after I get to my pc is take a look at my schedule for the day and jigsaw every part round.”

On Mondays or Fridays, Mariscal will “block off an enormous chunk” of time to work on big-picture initiatives. Which will or might not contain future plans for the shuttered Ko restaurant. “We nonetheless have the area,” Mariscal teased. “So the concept is to do one thing else in there.”

9:00 a.m.: Mariscal begins sipping on espresso. “It’s simply an iced espresso with oat milk,” she stated. “Or I actually like drip espresso, which I believe could be very unsexy, nevertheless it’s nice as a result of you’ll be able to simply drink countless quantities.”

The espresso helps her “energy by” her morning Zoom calls and telephone conferences. 

10:00 a.m.: Momofuku’s nightly restaurant logs are available in. “Each restaurant submits a report of what occurred the evening earlier than,” Mariscal says. “So it’s a technique to atone for how service went, or if anybody fascinating got here in.”

The craziest log she’s ever learn? “We had a espresso chain within the metropolis are available in for a vacation get together, and the log was horrible. Everybody was double fisting drinks, it was simply pure chaos.”

11:00 a.m.: Mariscal begins making her technique to the workplace through her most popular mode of transportation: strolling. “My grandpa lives a block away from the shop that he runs,” she says. “He at all times advised me to reside strolling distance [away] from work.”

Mariscal’s strolling route takes her throughout both the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge to get to Momofuku’s workplace, which is positioned in Manhattan’s Chinatown. She can be keen on the “stroll and discuss”—and can take work calls throughout her hour-long commute to the workplace. “I believe there’s too many Zooms occurring proper now,” she stated.

12:00 p.m.: Mariscal will get to the Momofuku workplace, which she says has a “fairly robust” snack choice together with seaweed, gummies, and Tiny Tate’s chocolate chip cookies. “I’ll have some in-person conferences, or I’ll stroll over to the eating places to have conferences there,” she stated.

1:30 p.m.: For lunch, Mariscal takes benefit of the workplace’s location to discover native Chinatown choices. “We used to have an workplace in Midtown that we moved, as a result of life’s too quick to eat unhealthy meals,” she stated.

Mariscal is presently on a quest to strive as many banh mi eateries as doable close to the workplace.

2:00 p.m.: Mariscal’s work day continues. She estimates she has 12 to fifteen conferences or telephone calls daily. “I’ve plenty of direct studies throughout the totally different companies,” she stated. “So actually simply ensuring I’m checking in with them persistently.”

Mariscal might have a “disgusting quantity” of conferences daily, however she tries to maintain issues fascinating. She commonly walks from Momofuku Noodle Bar’s Columbus Circle location to the East Village restaurant—which takes over an hour—whereas taking rolling calls.

6:00 p.m.: Mariscal wraps up her work day. A few of her days finish later if she has a restaurant go to or work drinks on her calendar.

8:00 p.m.: Dinner is Mariscal’s favourite meal of the day. “It’s the one one which I take into consideration and plan,” she stated. 

The CEO likes to plot out her dinner all through the work day. If she has a gathering uptown, she’ll try native gourmand grocers. If her day ends within the Chinatown workplace, she’ll go to Asian grocery shops within the space. “I attempt to reap the benefits of my work schedule to gasoline my dinner schedule,” she stated.

For Mariscal, cooking is a wellness exercise. “I believe it’s a method of specializing in one thing else that’s not work, and it’s one thing I can put my full consideration into.”

9:30 p.m.: “After dinner, if I’m not tremendous stressed about what’s occurring at work, I’ll attempt to make a few old-fashioneds or martinis,” Mariscal says. To wind down, she and her girlfriend wish to play video games like gin rummy and backgammon collectively.
12:00 a.m.: Mariscal doesn’t normally fall asleep till midnight or 1:00 a.m. “The quantity of blue gentle I consumption just isn’t useful.”