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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.

Categories
Adventures

I Snuck Tortillas Into KBBQ, Here’s What Happened

Photo by Peter Pham/Foodbeast

Korean BBQ is a unique experience where you get to be the grillmaster while still sitting at a table and conversing with loved ones. It’s a fairly perfect dinner that you wouldn’t think needs an upgrade, but we found a way to make the eating experience a tad better.

Tortillas.

Fellow Foodbeast Peter Pham and I snuck in tortillas to our KBBQ meal the other night, and it was everything we’ve dreamt it’d be.

It all started as a semi-serious joke in the office between Pete and I, as we often suggested how life-changing it would be to take our own tortillas to make tacos and burritos.

One fine day, Pete gave me the most serious look he had ever given me and said, “Should I pick up tortillas from Burritos La Palma so we can take them to Gen BBQ?” And in that moment, I knew it was actually happening. I nodded my head, and we were both in agreement that something special was going to happen between us that night.

We put the tortillas in a tote bag and just walked into our local Gen, which is a west coast Korean BBQ chain with over 30 locations spread across California, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona and Las Vegas.

Sure, we were a little nervous, but at the same time, we knew it was a slow night, and the staff was usually pretty chill. What’s the worst they can do, tell us to put away the tortillas? Would they actually kick us out for enhancing our eating experience?

Photo by Peter Pham/Foodbeast

If you’re not familiar with all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurants, the price for the food is set. Even if the tortillas made us feel more full, and we ate less than usual, we were still paying the same $23, each.

After grilling up a strip of spicy pork belly and a bit of beef brisket, we knew it was time.

We pulled out the pack of delicious hand-made flour tortillas from Burritos La Palma, threw a couple on the grill, and got to work.

Using the pork belly, rice, a little bit of kimchi, jalapenos, and garlic sauce, we tested out our burrito rolling skills.

The servers passed by a handful of times, surely seeing us dig into our KBBQ burritos, but they didn’t say a thing, which was nice of them.

Now as for the results, calling the burritos orgasmic would be an understatement.

As Pete and I went all in on these burritos, I feel we shared a Harold and Kumar-like moment similar to when they took their first bites of White Castle sliders.

The flavor combinations of KBBQ being neatly stored within the confines of a tortilla made us feel like we Marie Kondo’d our feast.

Admittedly, I have had tortillas with my KBBQ before, as a now defunct restaurant in Rowland Heights, CA used to offer street-style corn tortillas. And of course, Roy Choi revolutionized this concept with his Kogi BBQ taco truck.

Photo by Peter Pham/Foodbeast

This experience was different, though, especially when the power to make the burrito is in your hands and you can pack in as much pork belly as your fatty little heart desires.

With the amount of KBBQ restaurants in Southern California, surely there are some others who offer tortillas. But the masses need to understand — it needs to be the new standard.

I hope that more Korean BBQ spots take our experience, and the success of Kogi into consideration, because if they don’t, I might have to just gamble and sneak in tortillas from now on.

It’s that good.

After filling our bellies with more burritos than we could handle, we headed out the door in triumph. On the way out, we spotted the “no outside food or drink” sign and said, ‘Well, that’s a damn shame.’

But it will not deter us until they pry the tortillas from our cold, dead fingers.

Categories
Food Trucks

LOOK: Spam, Shortrib Wet Burrito From Kogi BBQ Truck

kogi-short-rib-spam-burrito

Kogi BBQ has long been known for peddling delicious and drool-worthy Korean-Mexican fusion out of their multiple Southern California-based food trucks, and their latest featured item, a Kogi Wet Burrito, is no different.

What we’re looking at is the truck’s shortrib burriro with slices of spam inside, smothered with Kogi Molé, cheese and onions. You can find this beast by catching the truck at one of its stops — a full schedule is available on the Kogi website.

 

Categories
Food Trucks

Say It Ain’t So — Kogi BBQ Truck Gets Rid of Select Menu Items

Looks like Chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ fame is back on his feet again and is planning to add new menu items to his world famous Los Angeles and Orange County based trucks.

Following a recent stint in which Choi stopped eating meat for a week and considered leaving the culinary world, it seems as if his passion for cooking has been reignited.

Fans of the truck that started the food truck phenomenon may be disappointed to find some original Kogi menu items are on the chopping block. However, as the truck’s creative director Alice Shin points out on their blog, “after the rain comes rainbows, and there shall be some amazing dishes to take the place of all those who are passing on to the other side.”

A rainbow of new Kogi BBQ menu items doesn’t sound so bad when you think about it that way. According to Alice’s post, Choi’s decision to remove items is because of the truck’s huge menu. To put things into perspective, the truck only usually features one new item each week because there are already 13 other menu items (19 if you count the different types of burritos and tacos). For a food truck, and even for some restaurants, that’s a huge menu.

Here’s the list of items that are set to leave the menu within the next two weeks:

  • Kogi Dog
  • Kimchi Quesadilla
  • Calamari Tacos
  • Blue Moon Mulitas
  • Pacman Burger
  • Pacman Quesadilla
  • Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla

I’m especially bummed about the Pacman Burger, but knowing that new menu items are scheduled to hit the truck from the Chef himself makes the wound heal a little easier.

Chef Roy Choi creating new innovative culinary fusion masterpieces? Count me in. Fans of his restaurant Chego should also rejoice in the fact that he’s also doing similar additions and subtractions, so be on the look out as well.

We’ll see what he adds in the upcoming weeks, but we’d love to hear your feedback until that happens. Do you think this should’ve happened sooner? Are they taking away some of your favorites? Sound off in the comments below!

Categories
Food Trucks

Kogi BBQ’s Latest Featured Item is a Galbi Kimchi Tomato Sourdough Melt

Kogi BBQ Truck is at it again with their periodic menu features. This time they’re incorporating their Galbi, Kimchi Tomato Melt and green sauce and cheese all on a what appears to be a toasted sourdough bread.

The truck can be reached at four of their roaming locations across Southern California, and if you’re looking to try the ‘GKT’ pictured here, you’ll have to jump on it quick. The $7 special will most likely fill a temporary menu slot much like their other rotating featured items.

Categories
Food Trucks

Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ Turns Vegetarian, Questions Life, and Thinks About Leaving Cooking

Just a few hours ago, chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ fame wrote a very public musing that reflects on the LA riots, no longer eating meat, and even mentions that he’s been thinking about leaving cooking.

From the looks of Choi’s blog post, there are a plethora of issues currently eating away at him [terrible chef verbage].

For those unfamiliar with chef Roy Choi, he was one of the chief people responsible for the success of both the Kogi BBQ truck, and subsequently, the fiery gourmet food truck movement that followed.

When one of the father’s of that food truck parade is upset, we listen:

I’ve been going through some deep shit this week. Butterfly block party. I’ve been thinking about leaving cooking for awhile. I can’t find meaning anymore.

Something inspired him to give up eating animals, which seemed to further fuel his self questioning:

I stopped eating meat this week.  That’s why I’m thinking about leaving cooking.  How can I cook with out using meat?  I will taste, for now as that is my profession.  But I will no longer eat meat for my own consumption.

Animals be talking to me.  They told me..stop. Stop, Roy.  Please.

I talk to animals and kids.  I feed adults.  Time to switch.  Talk to adults. Feed animals and kids.

The entire blog post is rather poetic. The dismal prose continues, calling on the likes of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver:

Are we supposed to put our faith in this man Jamie Oliver? A Brit? If so, then if anyone who reads this tell him to holla at me. Really. I can’t get to him. Tell him come see me, no PR, no publicist, no barriers. We can sit on the curb and join forces.

Who knows what the two would talk about if they ever met up. Maybe Choi feels burnt out on a genre he’s helped grow? Can he continue to innovate with his various food endeavors without the use of meat?

Maybe, similar to Jamie Oliver’s epiphany of social food consciousness, Choi’s turn to vegetarianism seems daunting for a chef whose success has come from a unique blend of flavors, most of which have had meat in the spotlight.

Whatever it is that Roy Choi seems to be facing, we hope he overcomes it. Until then, someone get this guy in touch with Jamie Oliver!

Categories
Food Trucks

SPAM Mulitas Being Served Up on the Kogi BBQ Truck

Furthering their Mexican and Korean fusion style menu, the Southern California-based Kogi BBQ truck has revealed their latest featured item: SPAM Mulitas. Mulita, which mean “little mule,” is a taco sandwich that maintains meat served between two tortillas and traditionally garnished with Oaxaca style cheese.

In the case of Kogi BBQ’s SPAM Mulitas, the truck uses sliced SPAM, grilled onions and ‘gooey queso’ topped with their trademark Salsa Azul. One Mulita will set you back $3, and two of them are priced at $5. Find a Kogi truck near you Southern Californians.

 

Categories
Food Trucks

Kogi BBQ Truck Launches a “French Kiss” Hot Dog

The Southern California-based Kogi BBQ Truck has just announced their latest feature menu item, the French Kiss hot dog. This Hebrew National frank sits in a toasty bun with Dijon Mustard, lengua meat, Salsa Azul and itty bits of goat cheese throughout.

The new item will run you $7 at any of the four roaming Kogi trucks.