Culture Entrepreneurship Film/Television Food Trucks Hit-Or-Miss

How Getting Fired Reignited Roy Choi’s Flame For Cooking and Lead To The Kogi Truck’s Success

Famed Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi was a recent guest on Talib Kweli’s burgeoning podcast “People’s Party.” They discussed a range of topics which included Choi’s upbringing, hip-hop’s contribution to his culinary journey, as well as the importance of community. Likening the overly-corporatized world of food to that of music industry major labels, it took being fired from celebrity hot-spot Rock Sugar to reignite Choi’s flame for cooking. He recalled his sudden “writer’s block” while preparing for the restaurant’s opening:

“I became a deer in headlights [everything], almost like I had amnesia. I woke up and couldn’t remember almost everything I was very proficient at. Like if you were to wake up and not know how to rhyme.”

Choi’s dismissal was a blessing in disguise, resulting in a slew of successful independent ventures like Chego!, A-Frame, Commissary, POT, LocoL and well-known catalyst Kogi BBQ. That’s Kogi with a “hard G,” by the way. Shedding the corporate chains allowed Choi to engage his dormant creative spirit. It also helped to inspire an evolution in the food world, with many others following suit into the great food truck unknown

What separated this new school of culinary adventure seekers was the ability to reconnect with the everyday person. An industry once divided between fine dining and mom and pop spots was now experiencing a renaissance as fantastic fusions entered the fray. This freshly found zeal flooded the streets of Los Angeles, overtaking a land once occupied solely by Latino taqueros. With respect to LA’s OG food truckers, Choi admits his initial unease:

“I was always torn between it because for us, there was a whole life and generation before this modern food truck movement. And that’s the culture of the Latino taqueros, especially in Los Angeles. And I think it’s really important to respect your elders and the generation before you and really pay homage to the work that they did for the streets.” 

For Choi, the first bite is key. Without all of the various attractions of a traditional restaurant, a food truck’s first bite determines its success. Going beyond mere business exploitation, there has to exist a real love for the food and respect for the street culture connected to it. “If you don’t love the streets, I don’t see how your street food will evolve or be a success,” Choi says.

Believing money to be merely one ingredient in the recipe of life, it’s the connection to community and communion that has fueled Choi’s creative spirit. These are the pillars he’s built each of his ventures upon. Moving ever-forward while never forgetting the root of his inspiration, Choi further accentuates:  

“Those are the cornerstones of Kogi; hanging out in the parking lot, watching the sun go down, watching the street lamps go up, sharing with each other, talking to each other, going out of your way to be considerate and kind to each other, and still represent the streets.”

Check out Choi’s interview with Talib Kweli on People’s Party to hear more in depth about his growth, current beliefs, and future goals.

Entrepreneurship Restaurants What's New

Nashville Hot Chicken Tortas Are The Specialty Of This Creative Pop-Up

With the cravings for Nashville Hot chicken continuing to sweep the nation, you often find folks attempting to recreate their own take on the OG. At the Rojos Hot Chicken pop-up, however, they’ve added a unique Mexican twist in both the preparation and the bread. In lieu of the standard white bread, Rojos opts for bolillos instead, creating their own spin: a Nashville Hot Chicken torta.

Rojos’ owners Rolando and Jose (the pop-up’s name combines their two together) have been cranking out the sandwiches since 2017. Inspired by Howlin’ Ray’s, and a mix of their own favorite flavors, the tortas are filled with ingredients like griddled pieces of nopales, (or cactus) American cheese, and fried chicken with their blend of Nashville/Mexican inspired spices.


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NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN & CHILE VERDE MILANESA TORTAS 👀🤯 //Served on a traditional bolillo, these Mexican inspired hot chicken tortas feature grilled nopales, pickles, slaw & American cheese. 🧀🔥// The deep fried chicken breast can be dipped in hierarchy of spicy sauces that range from spicy to very spicy. 📶♨️ // While this hybrid hot chicken torta ahogada might peel pack some eyelids, the real star of the show is the DEEP FRIED CHILE VERDE MILANESA TORTA, featuring a robust chile verde oil made with serranos. 🤤🌶 // Thanks to the boys at @RojosHotChicken for poppin’ up the #Foodbeast office and feeding the crew! 🥵😋 // Find out where you can find these hot chicken hybrids by reading more on!

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In true Nashville hot format, they have different spice levels to the chicken as well, with the Rojo X being the spiciest.

Having endured a few spicy challenges myself, I can say that having tried Rojos’ hottest format, you will definitely need a glass of milk or two to cool things down afterward.

Rojos isn’t just pushing the envelope for hot chicken, however. During a special Foodbeast live stream on Twitch, Rolando and Jose unveiled a Chile Verde Hot Milanesa, taking cutlets of fried pork, dousing it in a chile verde oil made with serranos, and giving it the same treatment as their Mexican hot chicken. The acidity of the verde oil meshes with the crispy fried pork for a flavor combination that has to be tasted to be believed.

You can find Rojos Hot Chicken at their various pop-ups via their Instagram page.

Entrepreneurship Fast Food Restaurants What's New

High Quality Pizzas For Under $3 Is A Reality At This New Aspiring Chain

If I told you, without any context, that an up-and-coming pizza chain was selling their pies for under $3, you’d probably have some pre-conceived opinions on what the quality of that meal would be. To then tell you that they’re selling 9-inch pizzas at that price in San Francisco and utilizing high-quality ingredients to do so would blow such assumptions out of the water.

Photo courtesy of apizza

This is exactly what disruptive new pizza concept apizza is achieving. Less than a week into their grand opening, they’re already drawing crowds at their SF location because of how good the pizzas have reportedly been at such a low price. It’s already led some local outlets to describe apizza as “The In-N-Out of Pizza,” something apizza Chief Financial and Development Officer Jason Thompson both loves and shies away from.

“In-N-Out does a great job, I’d be proud to be the In-N-Out of pizza,” Thompson told Foodbeast. “[But] our quality is something that isn’t even available at In-N-Out.”

It’s what apizza’s mantra is all about: Bringing high-quality pizzas to the people, but at an affordable price. Their team comes with the experience to make it possible, too: Thompson and his family have franchised across multiple fast food concepts over the years, while co-founder Nicolas Bernadi is a partner at La Boulange, the celebrated bakery chain once owned by Starbucks. Bernadi, co-founder Pascal Rigo, and their team spent about 3 years ideating their business to create a chain that optimized costs everywhere else to bring the best quality pizzas possible.

Photo courtesy of apizza

That includes utilizing compostable bags over pizza boxes, which helps cut down on packaging costs. It does mean your personal pie comes served folded, but it makes it much easier as an on-the-go option, whereas pizza is usually a sit-down affair. apizza has also sourced a bunch of their ingredient manufacturing to food producers that can make the quality they want at scale, which helps lower costs as well. This means that a $2.75 margherita pie can be made with organic dough and tomatoes, ingredients that traditionally come at a higher price point.

For comparison, Blaze Pizza, one of the larger and more competitive chains in the pizza scene right now, sells their basic pizza for $5.55. That puts apizza at about half the price of its current competition. The most expensive pizza on apizza’s menu is the mufuletta at $6.49, which is still about $2 less than comparable options at Blaze.

Apizza also makes their own Italian sodas in-house, and offers drink discounts if you bring your own cup. For dessert, they’ve got Loving Cup frozen yogurt, which you can custom make by the small portion or pint. No option on the menu is higher than $9 as a result, even if you factor in adding toppings like a poached egg ($3) or substituting Impossible plant-based meat ($3) onto your pie.

Photo courtesy of apizza

So far, apizza seems to be disrupting the pizza scene through its optimized business model, and it hopes to build on that to create a chain that brings these affordable pizzas everywhere. They’re already off to a strong start, with a second location in Belmont, California already slated to open at the end of this year. Other locations will also be confirmed in the coming months.

Entrepreneurship Now Trending What's New

Hello Kitty Cafe Opening In The Heart Of Las Vegas Strip

First look at the Keroppi Doughnuts that will be sold at the Hello Kitty Cafe in Las Vegas/Photo used with permission from Andy Nguyen

Quotes used in this article we’re transcribed from Andy Nguyen’s recent appearance on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast.

There have been whispers about a Hello Kitty Cafe opening in Las Vegas, and we have received official confirmation that the rumors are true, and the restaurant will be opening this summer, July 12.

Photo used with permission from Andy Nguyen

While on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast, restaurateur Andy Nguyen revealed that he was behind the project, and officially announced that the popular Japanese cartoon-inspired cafe would open its doors at MGM’s The Park Vegas, which is littered with several popular restaurants such as Shake Shack, Bruxie Original Fried Chicken, and even Best Friend by Roy Choi.

“I’m bringing Hello Kitty Cafe to the strip,” Nguyen said. “I think Sanrio recognizes who our group is as a people, and they know what we’ve done in the past. They’re going to let us apply that element… like our street element. It’s not going to be the same.” 

Nguyen added that the cafe is inside what he described as, sort of a giant pink shipping container – one that has already been spotted by curious tourists.


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Giving a sneak peek of what will be in the cafe, Nguyen hinted at pistachio-filled Keroppi donuts, character-inspired croissants, and quality merch — which is a given if you’ve followed Nguyen’s streetwear background.

Co-Owner Andy Nguyen gives a sneak peek of the doughnuts and croissants that will be served at the Hello Kitty Cafe/Photo used with permission from Andy Nguyen

We’ll keep you updated, as official menu items and photos are released within the next few weeks.

Drinks Entrepreneurship Sustainability Technology What's New

Eco-Friendly Tea Drops Dissolve Straight Into Hot Water, No Tea Bag Required

As everyone is looking to be more eco-friendly on a day to day basis, one spot to look at that you may not be thinking of is your tea bags. As more than half of all Americans are drinking a cup every day, that adds up to a lot of plastic, which is used to seal each bag of tea leaves.

While there are biodegradable packaging solutions and metallic loose leaf tea infusers you can use, one of the more creative solutions comes in what can be best described as miniature tea bath bombs.

Created by Tea Drops, these unique products dissolve into your hot water in mere moments. They come in different flavors, including turmeric or cardamom, and one is good enough to make an 8-12 ounce mug of strong, aromatic tea.

These come in a compostable packaging, which helps cut down on the traditional plastic and environmental footprint tea bags have. While there is still some waste involved, on average, you’re looking at cutting your waste down by 20-30% compared to conventional tea bags. That, and you don’t have a leftover wet bag of leaves to toss in the trash or get in the way of your sipping either.

You can purchase packs of the Tea Drops for $10, each one containing 10 of the mini bath bombs. That comes out to about a dollar per cup, which is 2-3 times more than the cost per tea bag in a package you can pick up at somewhere Target. Still, for the flavor, environmental awareness, and convenience these come at, it’s not too drastic of a price difference.

Tea Drops are available on the brand’s website, but can also be found in local and natural retailers across the nation.

Entrepreneurship Plant-Based The Katchup

Beyond Meat Just Became The First Plant-Based Burger Producer To Go Public

In the past few years, we’ve seen plant-based meat go from a Silicon Valley pipedream to a revolutionary food that has already invaded mainstream fast food chains. Now, the disruptive industry is making Wall Street its next target, as Beyond Meat has become a publicly traded company.

Photo courtesy of Carl’s Jr.

Beyond Meat is now the first ever plant-based burger purveyor to ever go public, a major step forward in confirming that vegan meat substitutes are the way forward. Investors seem to think so too: Just hours after launch, the company has already more than doubled its share price, a feat only achieved by just over 20 other companies in the last two decades.

It’s clear that plant-based food has invaded the mainstream and become a core part of daily eating, whether it be as a vegan, flexitarian or just someone looking to cut down on meat consumption. Could this also be a sign that these substitutes aren’t just going to be a part of the status quo, but could one day dominate it?

That conversation merits discussion, especially with how Beyond Meat is skyrocketing up the charts today. With all of that in mind, myself, fellow Foodbeast Elie Ayrouth, and vegan chef Skyler Tanksley broke down what all of this might mean on Foodbeast’s The Katchup Podcast. Tanksley, who runs the kitchen at Orange County’s first-ever vegan diner, Munchies, had some particularly insightful thoughts into what a future where plant-based meats are the norm could be like.

Regardless of whether any of that comes true, one thing is for certain: With how Beyond Meat is already performing on the stock market, it’s only a matter of time before vegan meat becomes as commonplace as the real thing.

Culture Entrepreneurship Restaurants The Katchup

Why Restaurants Value You, The Everyday Consumer, More Than Influencers

When restaurants start up, there’s a lot of pressure to get noticed and go viral, especially in the modern age of social media. Thus, several find themselves giving top dollar to big-name food influencers early to help get that initial foot traffic in the door.

While having connections to these social media gurus helps, their overall effect pales in comparison to the power us everyday consumers have in turning a restaurant into a success story.


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In business & in life it’s more about your hard work rather than your network. You can create networks. You can build a brand from the bottom up. But you have to be willing to put the time in, and think outside the box consistently. How do you maximize your resources, and how do you take advantage of the opportunities you have, rather then complain about what you don’t have. The idea is to start thinking micro rather then macro. Create a network from the bottom up so your business or brand has real life engagement, local support, and customers that create a continuous flow of revenue your business can depend on and grow from. This is my view on networks. Hope you guys find it useful. #Business #Network #ChessNotCheckers

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“Your local gym manager will bring to you per day, more people, more capita, than an influencer, because those are local people in that area that wanna eat,” explains Bear D’Egidio, the co-owner of the viral Groundhouse Burger. As both an influencer (aka “The Burger God”) and a restaurant owner, D’Egidio revealed on Foodbeast’s The Katchup Podcast that while being able to get big names advertising his business is cool, he gives the local community an equal amount of attention.

“Everybody has a network,” he said. “Your cousins, your local gym manager. The person you’re at school with. Your teacher, your principal. Those are content creators. Those are influencers, they’re micro-influencers. Stop looking at the game so macro. People need to break down what they are. If you don’t have resources, if you don’t have a network, you start small and you build. Your principal turns into the district principal, who turns into [a local fitness celeb]. You have these networks around you, macro or micro, that you can use however you want.”

Us telling our friends and family about the places we love to eat has a real fiscal impact, one we may not even realize. The lunch place you fall in love with and tell your co-workers about may lead to dozens of people in their own networks checking it out. It’s how dinner pop-ups get traction and become viral to the point that their owners become local celebrities, which is what happened to college chef Jimmy Wong, whose fine dining pop-up in his San Luis Obispo apartment became flooded with reservations almost immediately. Same goes for Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen, who started out in his Los Angeles apartment before his popularity made him a local celebrity with his own cookbook and brick-and-mortar location.

These guys wouldn’t have their success stories if not for the general public, aka, the “micro-influencers.” Each of us has the potential to be a micro-influencer; all it takes is a brief mention to our friends about our current favorite restaurants.

If you have a place or few that you love posting up at to eat, make sure to tell your friends. It’s the best way to get people in the door and ensures that those restaurants will hang around for years to come.

Design Entrepreneurship Products Technology

The Next Big Food Disruptor Could Come Courtesy Of Mars

The biggest names disrupting the world of food today all began as startups. I’m talking companies like Impossible Foods, who helped revolutionize the world of burger alternatives, or Chipotle, who shook up fast food with their healthier, customizable restaurant model dozens of other chains have since replicated.

While we don’t have a crystal ball to see who that next big name could be, food giant Mars is hoping to be a part of their success with their new Seeds of Change accelerator. This four month program provides young startups with up to $50,000 in total funding while acting as a growth launchpad.

Photo courtesy of Mars

Announced recently at Expo West, the accelerator is now accepting applications for its first cycle of 10 companies. The program will take place in the USA (for 6 startups) and Australia (for another 4).

For those young companies that get in, Mars will give $25,000 in grant money, no questions asked. There’s up to an additional $25,000 up for grabs for each startup as well, with that money going towards research, marketing, or whatever other functions the business really needs to scale.

Seeds of Change Accelerator director Gary Arora is looking for mission-driven businesses that fit within multiple of five different “core pillars” that make up various values at Mars. These include flavors from around the world, plant-based products, easy meal solutions, responsible food made sustainably and transparently, and items that artisanally crafted.

Arora noted that companies of any size can make it into the accelerator, the major requirement being that a product has been developed and sold, even if that just translates to a few thousand in sales.

Mars is really looking to experiment with this, and there’s no guarantee of success in such a risky venture. Those that flourish within the accelerator and beyond, though, could find themselves at the forefront at the future of food with backing from one of the world’s largest food titans. Thus, we all should be paying close attention to the Seeds of Change program to see what results come out of it.

Applications for the accelerator are open through May 31st.