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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.

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#foodbeast Alcohol Culture Features FOODBEAST Nightlife Now Trending Restaurants What's New

Roy Choi’s Upcoming Las Vegas Restaurant Has Finally Been Revealed

Prolific Los Angeles chef Roy Choi has famously ventured from a food truck to restaurants exploring varying styles of food pertaining to the theme of the restaurant, like Hawaiian food at A-Frame, and even, his game-changing Korean short rib taco birthed at the Kogi food truck.

With each new restaurant — whether the entire menu oozes with traditional-Korean flavors or is more of a fusion fare — he remains perched in Los Angeles, California. Choi’s status amongst Angelenos attributes to expanding in LA county, but at the top of this year, he announced his big move of opening a new restaurant in Las Vegas where a piece of L.A. will go along with him. After much anticipation for this new restaurant, Choi finally unveiled the entrance, dining area, and the name— ‘Best Friend,’ planning to open this December.

 

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It is located right on the Las Vegas Strip, in the new Park MGM Hotel, and this piece of Los Angeles pertains to Choi and Angelenos themselves. For Choi, the restaurants he opened in his hometown have a place at this establishment: “It is the only place to sink your teeth into all the flavors from Kogi to Commissary and everything in between, along with fresh new ideas I’ve been cooking up for years.”

 

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The first step into ‘Best Friend’ is the ‘Liquor Store’, which is essentially, a small neighborhood bodega: mildly quaint and retro — the mild barred by the extravagance of Las Vegas. This remixed version of Los Angeles with bright colors and neon lights makes it as Vegas as it could get.

“It’s Koreatown in a capsule — a portal to the streets of LA, but also rooted in what makes Las Vegas, VEGAS,” says Roy Choi. From the looks of it, the ‘Liquor Store’ boasts relics and iconic figures from the City of Angels along with nods to Choi’s musical tastes: an N.W.A poster, Biggie’s quote ‘It was all a dream’ fluoresced with neon lights, and a ‘Koreatown’ neon sign, too.  An early look at this entrance feels like a game of I Spy, the premise being: How LA is this LA-inspired restaurant?

In a previous interview with Foodbeast, Choi stated: “I want people from L.A. to walk in and be like, ‘FUCK YEAH‘ and ‘OHHH SHIIIT‘, you know? I want you to roll up with all your friends and feel at home. And then I want people from elsewhere to feel like they’re getting a good glimpse into what it’s like to live in Los Angeles. We’re very aware that this is gonna be a Vegas restaurant. So we won’t shy away from the big and spectacular. If they can recreate the cities of Paris and Rome in Vegas, I want to recreate Los Angeles, too, with varied levels of nuance.”

Yes, the food and the origins carry the culture of L.A., but what seems to matter to Choi more is the atmosphere. He wants to mirror L.A.’s laid-back, yet urban vibe; highlighting the quaint, corner-shops and passing cars bumping N.W.A, Tupac, and The Pharcyde (so, expect to hear all of the hip-hop classics blasting throughout the restaurant).

Los Angeles’ food in Las Vegas is a symbol of Choi extending his vision past the L.A. city limits, but beyond that, it is a creation made through collaboration with his own best friends — utilizing Sean Knibb and David Irvin’s design, Patrick Martinez’s neon art, and Travis Jensen’s photography.

As ‘Best Friend’ opens up in December, it will capture the vibe of Choi’s hometown but resonate around the culture — where diversity, is formed by the food and people— and that, is what makes this L.A.-inspired restaurant truly L.A.: “I want Best Friend to energize the minds of people looking to experience the best in life. Whether they are from Hollywood or Hong Kong, D.C. or Down Under, I hope all guests are licking their fingers with their mouths full saying ‘holy shit!’ as they reach across the table for another bite. L.A. food in Las Vegas. Los Vegas. Best Friend. Forever.”

Photos: MGM Resorts International
Categories
Culture Features Hit-Or-Miss

Roy Choi’s Upcoming Las Vegas Restaurant Will Be A Hip-Hop Themed Ode To Los Angeles

Roy Choi

As the godfather of the food truck movement, nothing seems too adventurous or intrepid for Roy Choi when it comes to culinary expansion. The esteemed People’s Chef has been riding for Los Angeles’ food scene and Angelenos for a decade now, using different vehicles in the form of varied dining concepts along the way to drive his vision of what a true Los Angeles food experience should be along with impressing upon us the crucial role a sense of community has with food.

That decade of experience under his belt has earned him a status as one of Los Angeles’ culinary torch bearers, and as such has lent his time and expertise to speaking panels and discussions highlighting the landscape of food today. Speaking at the recent dineLA discussion panel, he reflected on the restaurant week’s ten year anniversary along with what he’s contributed to the L.A. food scene within the decade.

“I feel like I’ve laid a lot of groundwork in the past ten years, in regards to what I’ve done for the food world and the community. And it leads me to right now, where I’m focused on prosperity, not only for myself and my businesses, but also for the things I’m involved in and everything we represent.”

2018 is definitely looking like a prosperous one for Choi, what with the recent news of him working on a new restaurant at the upcoming Park MGM in Las Vegas, the recent launch of his own line of food products with Williams-Sonoma, and the opening of another Locol location within a Whole Foods in San Jose. All of such are major moves and indicate just how much Choi wants to level up in this new year.

“I feel like I’ve been making independent films. But what if I had a studio budget, you know? What if I had a Pacific Rim or Transformers budget? Then really, what can we do? And the first piece to that is Vegas.”

This talk of big budget translates to an 8,000 square foot space where Choi promises, “It’s gonna be poppin’.” The genesis and mood board for the yet unnamed Las Vegas project comes from Koreatown and the Line Hotel, both hallmarks of his brand, ethos, and cooking. He’s honoring this connection by taking everything both are and supplanting it on the Las Vegas strip, creating an environment that’s proudly Los Angeles. He then goes into enthusiastic detail about the vibe and features of the forthcoming restaurant.

“I want people from L.A. to walk in and be like, ‘FUCK YEAH‘ and ‘OHHH SHIIIT‘, you know? I want you to roll up with all your friends and feel at home. And then I want people from elsewhere to feel like they’re getting a good glimpse into what it’s like to live in Los Angeles. We’re very aware that this is gonna be a Vegas restaurant. So we won’t shy away from the big and spectacular. If they can recreate the cities of Paris and Rome in Vegas, I want to recreate Los Angeles, too, with varied levels of nuance.”

Such nuances mean we can expect big speakers and the bombastic sounds of L.A. area hip-hop to fill the space. It means that the Beat Junkies will be deejaying some nights and rapper Dumbfoundead will be on the mic on others. It also means that Choi is eager to fill a void where hip-hop has not succeeded in Las Vegas. “I want this to be a hip-hop restaurant,” he declares. And in a city dominated by the grinding wobble and pulsing thump of EDM, having a spot dedicated to hip-hop would be a fresh and welcome addition to Sin City.

“I’m ready, man. I’m not afraid of anything. I’m not only looking to learn and grow from Vegas, but also offer everything that I can do with where I come from. I want to make an impact. I want to make a change. If I didn’t believe in this project, I would have created just a cookie cutter restaurant. But I’m here to create a feeling, an experience. I could fall flat on my face, but I’m willing to gamble on that.”

Whether or not the pun was intended, the statement is fitting. But from what we’ve seen from Roy Choi and what he can do with his passion for food and community, it’s a safe bet that his 2018 is looking to be one filled with the prosperity he’s craving.

 

Photos: MGM Resorts International
Categories
Culture Restaurants

How dineLA Showed Us A Restaurant Doesn’t Have To Fit A Specific Mold To Be Successful

Photo: Dylan + Jeni

Once again, my fellow Angelenos, dineLA is upon us.

The two week-long annual dining event celebrates a milestone 10th year where more than 300 participating restaurants offer unique prix fixe meals to local patrons and tourists at a fraction of the normal price.

At a press event, a panel of acclaimed chefs and restauranteurs spoke about participating in the 15 days of dineLA and what it meant to them. That panel included chefs Susan Feniger (Border Grill), Roy Choi (Kogi), David LeFevre (Manhattan Beach Post), and Steve Samson (Rossoblu).

Photo: Peter Pham

David LeFevre, the owner of the Manhattan Beach Post brought up an inspiring quote that reignited the spark inside the dreamer in me who once wished to open his own BBQ spot.

You don’t have to fit a certain mold to be successful. You don’t have to fit a certain mold to be the best restaurant.

Just scanning through the hundreds of participants and cuisines taking part in the event brings us joy, seeing food celebrated so abundantly.

Foodbeast’s managing editor and Los Angeles resident Richard Guinto had this to say:

Success isn’t made from a certain mold or archetype and dineLA is a good example of that. To elaborate, it’s because dineLA is a good indicator of just how diverse and expansive the Los Angeles dining scene is.

He added:

Whether you’re doing fancy white table cloth type of dining or you’re the local gastropub with eccentric bar bites and a good beer selection or even if you’re a Thai restaurant serving up authentic flavors, dineLA features it. All of which have nothing in common but good food and the success they share as a result of it.

Take Roy Choi’s Kogi concept, for example. Nearly a decade ago, Choi changed the food scene with his Kogi food truck. College students, businessmen and women, chefs, and doctors alike were all waiting in long lines to get their hands on his Korean and Mexican fusion.

Choi now owns multiple concepts and brick-and-mortar Kogi locations throughout California.

Of course there are a few basic guidelines that provide a good foundation when opening a restaurant.

Entrepreneur lists four keys to opening a successful restaurant: perfecting the menu, hiring a great staff, comfy and appealing decor, and market the crap out of your spot.

As my publisher once said, you just have to do what you’re passionate about and the success will follow.

If you’re interested in checking out this year’s dineL.A. event, you can see all the restaurants participating here.

Categories
Features Hit-Or-Miss Recipes

Everything You Need To Know About Burritos [INFOGRAPHIC]

Deciding what burrito to get isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, once you settle on the tortilla-wrapped cylinder from heaven, you’re gonna want to decide what type of burrito you’d like to stuff your face in.

To help keep you informed with you burrito-based decisions, Fairmont created this awesome infographic that highlights seven of the most popular burritos around. The graphic includes ingredients, the history behind it, what makes the burrito unique, and little fun facts.

Choices of burritos include: traditional, smothered/wet, Mission, California, breakfast, chimichanga, and Kogi. Sure, it’s illustrated, but our mouths are watering just looking at all this gluttonous variety.

Check out the infographic below and get to know your burrito a little better.

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Categories
Features

A Terminal-By-Terminal Guide To Eating At LAX

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Airports are magical places. No, not because of the giant flying vehicles that allow people to travel across the world at tremendous speeds. They stopped calling that magic years ago. Rather, it’s that they’re meeting grounds for loved ones and adventure seekers all looking for their place in the world.

However, traveling cannot be done on an empty stomach.

This is why we went through all the terminals at Los Angeles International Airport to find the most delicious and drool-worthy menu items you should try. Whether it’s before boarding or after a long, exhausting flight, the airport dining experience is detrimental. So when there’s good food to be had, you really need to know where to find it.

Also, there’s booze. Booze everywhere.

Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese

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Who: Ford’s Filling Station

What: With a name like Ford’s Filling Station, you’d better believe travelers will expect to leave with a belly full of fuel. The Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese is a perfect combination of savory…and savory. You’ll probably still feel it resting comfortable in your stomach, miles into the air.

Where: Terminal 5

Spanish Omelet

LAX-Omelet

Who: bld (Breakfast Lunch Dinner)

What: If you’re in the mood for a rustic breakfast, Breakfast Lunch Dinner should do the trick. The Spanish Omelet is stuffed with chorizo, fingerling potatoes, roasted piquillo peppers, paprika, and manchego cheese, and it’s served with herb-roasted potatoes and choice of bread.

Where: Terminal 7

Pastrami Sandwich

LAX-Pastrami

Who: Cole’s

What: Nothing goes better with a nice tall glass of beer like a hearty Pastrami Sandwich. Stacked with a generous amount of cured meat, the sammich is served with a pickle spear bar side.

Where: Terminal 4

Champagne and Caviar

LAX-Caviar

Who: Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar

What: Feeling fancy? You’re already in the international terminal, why not indulge yourselves further with some champagne and caviar? Served with crackers and other hors d’oeuvres, it’ll be a light snack to tide you over until your in-flight meal.

Where: Tom Bradley International Terminal

Macarons

LAX-Macarons

Who: La Provence Patisserie and Cafe

What: If you’re looking for a last-minute gift, look no further than a box of assorted macarons. These colorful pastries, albeit pricey, will definitely bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Or you can just buy a box for yourself and eat them while you’re waiting for luggage.

Where: Terminal 4

Tacos

LAX-Tacos

Who: Loteria! Grill

What: Tacos galore. Perfect for someone looking for a quick, light and savory meal. Includes different styles of pork, beef, chicken and veggies prepared in savory marinades and salsas. Order them in singles, pairs or platters.

Where: Terminal 5

Pizza

LAX-800-Pizza

Who: 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria

What: Travelers can choose from a pre-designed pizza, like the classic Margarita, or build their own from 800 Degree’s list of toppings and sauces. Either way, the pizzas should put you in a comfortable slumber for the majority of your flight or the car ride from the airport.

Where: Tom Bradley International Terminal

Veggie Bowls

LAX-Veggie-Bowls

Who: Real Food Daily

What: The LAX and Pasa[dena] Bowls. The Pasa bowl features quinoa, club seitan and mixed veggies over a bed of rice. The LAX Bowl boasts black beans, jalapeño cashew cheese, guacamole and a lime-cilantro dressing over brown rice. A perfect spot for vegetarians, vegans and anyone looking for a healthy meal before flying.

Where: Terminal 4

Lemonade

LAX-Lemonade

Who: Lemonade

What: Lemons. Water. Sugar. Who would have thought that three simple ingredients could become a beverage popular enough to open a restaurant around? With tons of stores all over California, and one in the Middle East, Lemonade is a light pit stop through the terminal. They don’t just have lemonade either, food can also be found.

Where: Terminal 5

LAX Burger (Umami)

LAX-Umami

Who: Umami Burger

What: An Umami Burger with port-caramelized onions and a Stilton blue cheese spread. Greasy, juicy, savory. That’s pretty much all you need to know here.

Where: Tom Bradley International Terminal

Chicken and Waffles

LAX-Chicken-Waffles

Who: Engine Co. No. 28

What: An insanely crispy piece of chicken thrown on top of a savory Belgian waffle. While Engine Co. doses the sucker with a special sausage country gravy, don’t let that deter you from drowning it in maple syrup as well. They also serve some chili that’s pretty fire, although you might want to pass on that if you’re in for a long flight.

Where: Terminal 8

Corned Beef Hash

LAX-Corned-Beef

Who: Campanile

What: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Corned beef hash is one of the most under-appreciated breakfast foods out there. You got your savory potatoes, deliciously salty corned beef and a shamefully yolky poached egg.

Where: Terminal 4

Steak

LAX-Steak-02LAX-Steak-01

Who: B Grill by BOA Steakhouse

What: There’s nothing better than a nice, juicy, well-seasoned steak. If you call yourself steakhouse, you better believe people are you going to expect a great steak. Needless to say, B Grill delivers, even with the high-speed expectations of diners running late for flights. Their BOA Burger is pretty legit, also.

Where: Terminal 7

Breakfast Pizza

LAX-Breakfast-Pizza

Who: Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill

What: Our two favorite foods: breakfast and pizza. Breakfast pizzas will always hold a magical place in our hearts. Sammy’s boasts two morning pies on their menu, one featuring sausage, mushrooms and eggs, and the other, bacon, cheddar and eggs.

Where: Terminal 4

Philly Cheesesteak

LAX-PhillyCheese

Who: Rolling Stone Bar & Grill

What: Comfort food at its finest. Made with marinated beef, sauteed onions and melted provolone, Rolling Stone serves their Philly cheesesteak on a toasted bun topped with diced red and green peppers.

Where: Terminal 7

Cupcakes

LAX-Cupcake

Who: Vanilla Bake Shop

What: Honey-roasted peanuts just can’t satisfy a sweet tooth like a cupcake can. Vanilla Bake Shop pretty much has it all: chocolates, macarons and cupcakes. We recommend trying a red velvet cupcake, or three.

Where: Tom Bradley International Terminal

Kogi Tacos & Quesadilla

LAX-Kogi

Who: Kogi

What: You would think the last place you’d find a Kogi truck would be smack dab in the middle of an airport. Yet, here we are. Nestled in the heart of Terminal 4, Kogi recreated an authentic truck serving the same fusion foods you find on the streets. A wild Roy Choi may occasionally appear.

Where: Terminal 4

The LAX Burger (The Counter)

LAX-Counter

Who: The Counter

What: Yep, another LAX Burger. This burger, however, features quite a few more toppings than its Umami counterpart. Stacked with onion confit, sauteed mushrooms, horseradish aioli and a brioche bun, the burger boasts a hormone- and antibiotic-free beef patty.

Where: Terminal 7

Fish Tacos

LAX-Slapfish-Tacos

Who: Slapfish

What: A cajun rubbed fish taco for those craving some seafood before some quick globe-trotting. The tacos are topped with cabbage and a tangy tartar sauce. Though if you’re gonna cross the ocean, you might want to ease up on that sauce.

Where: Terminal 2

Stinky Fries

LAX-Sea-Legs-Fries

Who: Sea Legs

What: Fries drenched in a three-cheese garlic fondue. It’s topped with shaved parmesan and truffle oil. Just remember to pop a mint before boarding, cause you’ll probably devour these.

Where: Terminal 2

The LAXisHappening website also features terminal-specfic information on all the restaurants availibable at whatever terminal you’re in.

Photos by Peter Pham. Cover image photographed by Brian Yamamoto

Categories
Fast Food

Pizza Hut Korea Now Slinging Korean Taco Pizzas

pizza-taco-crop

Like tacos? More importantly, like Korean tacos? Oh, and you like pizza too? Perfect. You and the rest of this article should get along swimmingly.

So here’s the deal. Back in 2008, Roy Choi introduced the first OG Mex-Asian fusion food truck to the streets of Los Angeles, Dominique Ansel-ing the world back when Twitter was still a hashtag-less little peep. Now, Pizza Hut Korea wants to up the ethnic mash-up game with its brand new spicy Pork Taco Pizza.

pizza-taco-1

We’ve seen taco pizzas before, but few that haven’t looked like sad stoner fails. PHK’s version at least looks like it was done on purpose, sprinkling your standard taco fixings like grated cheese, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, and jalapeños along with Korean-seasoned shredded pork, on top of a 10 – 13″ pizza crust, whose slices you can then fold in half and eat like — yep — tacos.

Genius.

Picthx Pizza Hut Korea

Categories
Sweets

New Oreo Hack Series Spawns Oreo Nachos, Oreo-Crusted Chicken Tenders, and Lemon Oreo Cocktails

oreo1

You can dip them in milk, eat them cookies or creme filling first, or even dump peanut butter all over them. But what if you could do Oreos the way an expert chef would do Oreos? For its ongoing “Snack Hack” series, Oreo asked celebrated L.A. chefs Roy Choi, Michael Voltaggio, and Nguyen Tran to create some simple, innovative, and of course, Oreo-based hack recipes, with pretty freaking spectacular results.

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Each recipe in the series is meant to be quick, simple, and reflective of the chef who concocted it. Choi’s “Midnight Hack,” for example, draws on late night food truck munchies to create a Golden Oreo cookie and panko-breaded chicken tender served with banana ketchup. Voltaggio’s sports fanatic-driven oeuvre pairs crushed Oreo nachos with shandies made from strained Lemon Oreos.

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Tran’s creation draws from impulsiveness. His video demonstrates how a quick trip to the convenience store eventually turns into an Oreo bread pudding made from diet cherry soda and a pound cake.

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Check out all the videos below for the simultaneously most stoner-friendly and bougiest Oreo recipes you will ever see. All text recipes can be found on the individual video pages, along with several more fan-submitted recipes on the official Oreo tumblr.