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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
Culture Health The Katchup

Man Lost 100 Pounds By Switching To An Indigenous Foods Diet

“I’ve lost 100 pounds since July.”

Photos courtesy of Zach Johnston

When UPROXX travel writer Zach Johnston dropped that bombshell on Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast, everyone was stunned. Johnston’s weight loss story is incredible, but not just because he dropped an average of over 10 pounds per month in that time span. It’s the diet and lifestyle he switched to that really stood out.

“I started fasting for 18 hours a day,” he said, introducing his unique diet plan. As for meals, “I just straight up do wild proteins, greens, wild rice a couple of times a week, throw in some beans every now and then. I seasonally do squash, corn, things like that.”

The type of diet Johnston is subscribing to can best be described as an “indigenous” diet, because it’s based on the foods that American Indians ate throughout history until US governmental oppression forced them out of most of that culture. Before moving away from the reservation, Johnston’s family was part of the Skokomish Tribe in Washington State. He has long been writing stories about these types of foods, their history, and how it’s almost impossible to find it represented in today’s restaurant scene.

For those unfamiliar with the indigenous history, American Indians long occupied the modern United States until the idea of “Manifest Destiny” came along. As the USA spread its influence across the continent, according to Johnston, tribes’ camps, cultures, and history were often decimated, with younger generations brainwashed into the mainstream colonist lifestyle. A major result of that “cultural genocide” is that most of the tribes’ food history was lost. Only spoken-word tales and adaptations to living on harsh reservations remain.

Johnston grew up in that food history and culture, and living off of the resources that were around him helped instrumentally with his diet. While Johnston lives in Germany these days, he can still get a lot of those ingredients in the country. It shows that these indigenous or wild foods, and a diet centered around them, are attainable even in today’s grocery store society.

“You can find all of this food around you,” Johnston confirms. “There’s bison, wild fish in the supermarkets. You can have a wild lifestyle through razor clams, butter clams, oysters, crab. It’s not impossible to have wild foods.”

By going into this dietary lifestyle, Johnston explains, and focusing in on stuff that’s wild around your area, you can feel “more sustained.” This is especially true with grains like wild rice, which is heftier than the standard white rice we find in stores, meaning you don’t need to eat as much of it.

However, it’s also not a great idea to just rush out into the wild and start picking the foods yourself. That ability comes with knowledge of what’s safe to eat. There are guides based on your local region typically available on places like Amazon, but there are also alternatives to foraging.

“Obviously, not everyone can just rush out into the fields and start picking everything they need to make a salad,” Johnston said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t start growing more of this shit, because it’s an agriculture from here.”

Through eating an indigenous diet and growing more of our own food, though, it’s clear through people like Johnston that the health benefits, alongside the awareness it gives to a culture that truly deserves it, are a massive plus. Because this type of diet is high in key nutrients like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, it can help with everything from muscle and bone strength to brain function and mental health.

You can listen to Johnston’s full take on indigenous foods, his diet, the history of American Indian culture and food, and more on the most recent episode of The Katchup, embedded above.

*Author’s Note: “American Indian” and “Indigenous” were both terms preferred by Johnston in his conversations on The Katchup.

Categories
#foodbeast Culture FOODBEAST Hit-Or-Miss

Restaurant’s Avocado Toast Is A Middle Finger To This Australian Billionaire

The internet and the food industry are once again undefeated with their petty comebacks! As you might recall from an article that went viral last month, an Australian property rich guy named Tim whocareswhathisnameis shamed millennials’ spending habits for overspending on avocado toast.

In proper internet fashion, UPROXX challenged Burnt Crumbs in Huntington Beach, Calif. to put together an avocado toast worth a whopping 100 doll hairs… basically as a big “MIND YO DAMN BUSINESS” middle finger to any millionaire 1%-ers with a desire to give us unwarranted budgeting advice.

So, what ingredients are included in this ‘holy grail’ of avocado toasts? Obviously you begin with a massive slice of sourdough bread, a mountain of smashed avocado, beautiful buttered poached lobster, ricotta cheese, white truffle shavings (of course), and edible GOLD flakes.

A post shared by Uproxx Life (@uproxxlife) on

This glamorous behemoth of an avocado toast can be found at Burnt Crumbs in Huntington Beach, CA. But you might need to give them a two-day heads up if you plan on ordering it.

Categories
Culture Film/Television Technology The Katchup

Can This Piece Of Fried Chicken Save The World? [The Katchup Podcast]

This past week, Memphis Meats broke the internet by introducing a piece of fried chicken made without killing a single animal. Their “clean” cultured meat that’s been grown in a lab is the company’s latest in a string of successes around lab-grown meat. Memphis Meats’ hope is to become a significant part of the world’s meat supply as livestock becomes unsustainable to raise in factory-farmed, mass-scale settings over the next couple of decades.

With that story buzzing around, one has to pop the question: is lab-grown meat truly necessary to save the world’s food supply?

That’s what was discussed in this week’s episode of The Katchup, Foodbeast’s podcast that covers the hottest stories in food from the past week. Foodbeast Editor-in-Chief Elie Ayrouth moderated a fiery discussion between UPROXX’s Steve Bramucci and The Ecology Center’s Founder and President Evan Marks on lab-grown meat and the future of food.

Photo courtesy of Memphis Meats.

While both Steve and Evan are supportive of a future of food that doesn’t rely on factory farming, they represent opposite stances about the usage of lab-grown meat to make that future possible, with Steve supporting and Evan against it. However, both clearly agree that there is a problem with our current food system.

Evan Marks claimed that in our current food system:

“The earth, farm labor, and us are typically the losers.”

Steve Bramucci agreed, and targeted his blame at humanity for getting us into this mess in the first place.

I don’t feel sorry for us if we have to use tech to solve everything we’ve fucked up.”

This led to some deep conversations and intense debates about our farm and livestock systems, sustainable agriculture, the relationship between technology and agriculture, and what the future of food should be.

How does that future look? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to answer that question for yourself.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss News

Dock To Dish L.A. Wants To Eradicate Foreign Fishing For A Good Cause

Any ecologist will tell you that everything, from the tiniest shrimp in the ocean to the sunbathing sea lion, is connected in some way. For years now, it’s been well-documented that over fishing disrupts the natural order of the ocean and can lead to greater global issues.

Regardless, fishing is inevitable. That’s why Dock to Dish L.A. is working with local fishermen to ensure the distance between you and the fish you eat is kept to a minimum. Essentially, Dock to Dish wants to take your fish directly from local fishermen, straight into the kitchen of top local chefs.

“The U.S. imports 90% of its seafood from overseas.” – Dock To Dish L.A.

UPROXX spoke with the organizers behind Dock to Dish who are working to expose the dangers of commercial fishing on a global scale, primarily what is referred to as “illegal, unregulated, and unreported” foreign fishing.

It’s easy to see that fish is a highly demanded food source and has been a reliable practice for survival for centuries. However, due to decades of unregulated fishing practices, safeguards are needed in order to keep moderation in check.

“70 percent of seafood populations are in critical danger due to unsustainable fishing.”  — Dock to Dish

The question becomes, how do you establish a system of checks and balances in a place as vast and lawless as the world’s oceans? It’s impossible to say, but with companies like Dock to Dish working to stabilize local markets, sustainability may still be achievable.

While the selection of fish may be a bit unreliable, the system Dock to Dish is currently implementing may decrease the need for unregulated foreign fishing, hopefully leading to improved fish populations in local waters.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Roy Choi Wants To Save ‘The Hood’ With His New Restaurant

“In the ghettos of america we feed our children corrosive chemical waste.” – Chef Roy Choi, Owner of Locol

Powerful words from one of Southern California’s most influential chefs who is working to change the dynamic between healthier eating habits and people living in poverty-stricken communities.

With the opening of Locol, in Watts, Choi and business partner Daniel Patterson are taking on the fast food industry to make healthy food less expensive and accessible to all.

In this video, uploaded by Uproxx to YouTube, we get a first hand look at exactly what Locol is all about.

With locations now open in Oakland, California and the flagship store located in Watts, customers are beginning to understand what they’ve been missing out on.

Roy Choi speaks candidly about his vision and his determination to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods.

“What we’re going to do is tackle the fast food industry. And we do it like we know how as chefs; we just get in and cook.”

Locol features recipes built from scratch and all food made by hand, Locol is creating waves throughout the communities it serves, simply by creating an environment for people to care about food.

In areas dominated by franchised fast food chains, mom-and-pop grocery stores lacking organic produce, Locol is coming to the rescue. Reasonable prices and outside-the-box menu items have made venturing to Locol a new dining experience, while also providing employment opportunities for those living in the communities Locol aims to serve.

Photomenu_Locol

During a 2014 MAD Symposium and Conference, in Coppenhagen, Choi shared his well-spoken philosophy when describing exactly how he envisions the Locol legacy will endure.

“You wouldn’t have record execs making the music, right? That’s what musicians do,” he said. “But right now, we’re in a situation where cooks aren’t designing the food that most people are eating. The suits are. Let’s get back to the chefs making the food and the moral choices for the people. Let’s get in and cook.”

When describing how he came up with the name, Choi simply explained that there’s two very specific meanings behind “Locol.”

The name ‘Locol’ is two concepts together, like we’re fucking crazy to be doing this, and we’re local,” he said.

With a well known brand throughout Souther California, Roy Choi’s chef-driven vision is sure to stay alive.