Tag Archives: Roy Choi

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Chef Roy Choi Dishes on L.A. Menu Exhibit

Pictured above: Ships Coffee Shop, 1971. (Image courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library)

by KARIN CHAN
karin@iamkoream.com

 

Can the history of a city be told through its restaurant menus? Visitors to the Los Angeles Public Library may ask themselves this question as they feast their eyes on a rare collection of old menus, now on display at the Central Library through November 13.

The exhibit, “To Live and Dine in L.A.,” shares the same name with a book published in partnership with Angel City Press, which includes a foreword by L.A.-based chef and restaurateur Roy Choi.

Written by Josh Kun, an author and associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, To Live and Dine in L.A. explores the history, urban growth and social stratification of Los Angeles through food menus spanning as far back as 1875 to the 1980s.

Kelbo_Desserts-LDLAKelbo’s (1950s)

The collection of menus is the result of a decades-long effort that began when two LAPL librarians began collecting menus in the 1980s; today, the library has amassed around 15,000 menus. Choi was one of those who helped curate the collection of roughly 200 menus for the book and exhibit.

“The menus we saw told us a story, but what were the ones missing telling us?” he told KoreAm by email—adding of the collection, “Expect to think about the haves and have-nots and expect to sit and experience the growth of a city with all its bumps and bruises and how that’s a reflection of today as well.”

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Included in the collection are menus from the likes of such ritzy restaurants as Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, which was branded as “Californian Cuisine” in 1981, with its offerings of crab ravioli and Chinese-style duck breast. Conspicuously absent, however, are menus catering to California’s working class: After all, food trucks that stopped outside construction sites or lunchrooms had no handheld menus, opting to write food items on boards or not having them written at all.

Choi told KoreAm that the disparity between the rich and poor reflected in these sampling of menus reveals other aspects of the city’s history. “I found the racial propaganda surprising,” he said.

Indeed, one featured menu is from the Golden Pagoda restaurant, whose cover artwork appeals to “Western stereotypes of Asian culture,” Kun writes in the book. The 1943 menu depicts an image of a pagoda structure and rickshaw driver and uses a font associated with traditional Asian-style calligraphy brushstrokes.

GoldenPagoda_MenuFront-LDLApg159Golden Pagoda (1943)

In Choi’s foreword for To Live and Dine in L.A., he writes that most places he grew up eating in didn’t have menus—such as his home, burger stands and delis. (Fans of the chef may recall he wrote about his youth and L.A.’s food culture in his 2013 memoir, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food.)

While most people may know Choi as the founder of gourmet Korean taco truck, Kogi, the Angeleno is not only a seasoned chef but also an activist, as he applies his culinary background to help address the still-existent social disparity of food accessibility in L.A.

Since opening in 2013, Choi’s South Central L.A. restaurant, 3 Worlds Café, has partnered with nearby Jefferson High School to sell healthy, all-fruit smoothies, coffee and other items. The mission of the project is to create equitable access to healthy food and foster the development of young entrepreneurs. Choi is also preparing to open his fast food restaurant, loco’l, which will aim to serve healthier and affordable food options in Watts.

When asked what inspired the project, Choi replied, “They are my friends and family. I’m here to feed. That’s all. And I give a f—.”

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The Redwood House (1945) 

Recognizing that it’s a privilege to be able to dictate what is on the menu today, Choi wants those who visit the exhibit or pick up the book to get to know L.A. better, warts and all.

“You can see L.A., right before your eyes, grow through these menus and ask questions about what is and was and what is and isn’t,” he said.

For more information on To Live and Dine in L.A., visit its official website.

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With additional reporting by the Associated Press. All images courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.

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[VIDEO] A Conversation with Chefs Corey Lee and Roy Choi

Roy Choi’s loco’l Indiegogo Campaign Meets 100K Goal 


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Fluffernutter

Roy Choi, Salt & Straw Go Nuts with New Ice Cream Flavor

 

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

It seems as if we have another reason to scream for ice cream.

Chef Roy Choi and Portland-based ice cream company Salt & Straw have teamed up to bring forth a new flavor, and if you know anything about both of them, they know a thing or two about coming out of left field.

Papi’s Korean Fluffernutter joins an already delectable medley of flavors at Salt & Straw. It draws inspiration from the Korean spiced peanuts Choi ate as a child, and his reimagining sounds amazing. The peanut ice cream base is mixed with marshmallow fluff and blackberry jelly, infused with Thai spices and nut chunks, according to food blog Roaming Hunger.

In addition to the Fluffernutter, Salt & Straw founders, Kim and Tyler Malek, collaborated with Border Grill chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger to create a green corn tamales-flavored ice cream, fused with agave and candied corn.

saltandstraw_guelaguetzas-mole-negro_la_lowMolé rojo flan ice cream (Photo via Roaming Hunger)

The ice cream shop will also be serving a molé rojo flan flavor from Guelaguetza, a bratwursts and mustard flavor from Wurstkuche and a Peking duck flavor that Salt & Staw concocted.

The new flavors are a part of a street food series and will be available from this Friday, June 5, through July 2 at Salt & Straw’s Larchmont Boulevard location in Los Angeles.

We know what we’re doing this summer.

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Feature image via Los Angeles Times

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[VIDEO] San Francisco Meets Los Angeles: A Conversation with Chefs Corey Lee and Roy Choi

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Reputations have a habit of preceding, and it was no different when it came to two of the most established chefs on the West Coast.

“You’re not as intense as I imagined,” Roy Choi quipped to Corey Lee in front of an enthusiastic group of foodies and fans in Santa Monica in late April. “You’re a very calm and nice guy, actually. I was scared, I was ready to say, ‘Oui, Chef.’”

“That’s what I heard about you,” Lee retorted. “‘He’s a gangster.’”

On April 22, the two Korean American chefs met face-to-face for the first time for a chat in Santa Monica, Calif. as Lee kicked off his tour to promote his new cookbook, Benu (published by Phaidon), which is named after his three-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco. The recipes are presented as a 33-course tasting menu, and Lee includes several personal anecdotes that reveal the influences behind Benu’s signature dishes.

At first glance, the chefs come across as two distinct players in the business: Choi, a visionary chef who reps L.A. hard and is responsible for single-handedly changing how the world looks at food trucks; Lee, who is renowned worldwide for his culinary skills and knowledge of French, Chinese and Korean cuisines that play out into the unique offering at Benu.

But while their products may seem like they belong to different spheres in the culinary world, Lee and Choi explained there are more similarities to their food—especially when it comes down to how their respective upbringings and backgrounds play out in the dishes.

corey-lee-by-eric-wolfinger-01Corey Lee. Photo by Eric Wolfinger

“I’m not sure if Roy’s food is worlds apart from ours [at Benu],” Lee said in response to a question from an audience member. “I think from a consumer’s perspective, it might be. But from a chef’s perspective, from an entrepreneur’s perspective, I think there are a lot of parallels, and the more I talk to Roy, I realize that.”

“I had an upbringing that doesn’t seem like it would foster a chef’s career,” Lee added. “But I think that for those of us who were born in another country and came over to the U.S., this process of trying to recreate the food culture of our native country here in the U.S. is a very big part of our lives.”

Food writers haven’t found a specific brand to describe Lee’s food at Benu. Some have summarized it as Asian and French fusion or having Asian “influences.” Lee doesn’t subscribe to a certain brand—though he did write a book trying to explain it. At the same time, Lee admits he didn’t intend the cookbook to be as personal as it eventually became.

“When you go to explain your motivations for a dish, or the reasons why you think it’s worth documenting, that’s the kind of journey I thought was really educational for me in writing the book,” Lee explained. “Getting a better understanding of why these dishes were important to me, or where they came from, how they were conceived, and how that relates to my upbringing—a lot of it is tied to Korean food, Korean culture and Korean traditions.”

Be sure to check out our video of the highlights from Lee and Choi’s conversation as the chefs discuss their respective backgrounds, philosophies and influences in their careers—as well as their favorite Korean dishes.

Lee will be in Asia during the month of May, stopping by Hong Kong and Seoul before hitting the final leg of his tour in Toronto. On May 27, Lee will close his tour in Toronto with a conversation featuring Momofuku’s chef and founder, David Chang, who also wrote a foreword in the Benu cookbook.

Below are a few images and excerpts from Lee’s Benu cookbook, which is available on Amazon through publisher Phaidon.

BENU book shot

Thousand year old quail eggThe thousand-year-old quail egg, the first course on the menu. Pidan, as it is known, is usually made with duck eggs, but Lee went with quail eggs for the smaller size and a “whimsical variation” from tradition.

“How pidan was conceived and developed is one of the great mysteries and triumphs so often found in Chinese cuisine,” Lee writes. “And its enjoyment can be a great reward for the adventurous and open-minded eater.”

Beggar's PurseThe beggar’s purse of treasures from the oak is composed of acorn, Iberico ham and black truffle. These are innately connected, Lee says: “It’s such an obvious and natural combination of flavors, but one that’s a product of being Korean, living in northern California, and working in European kitchens.”

Kimchi PotsLee didn’t have the fondest memories of growing up with kimchi, and it took him years to reconnect with it. But things have come “full circle” for him, as Benu now makes and serves their own kimchi.

“The most well-known variety, baechu kimchi … is what we make at Benu. The flavor profile is based on my mother’s–refreshing, loaded with daikon and green onion, firm in texture, not too sweet or spicy, and just a hint of seafood.”

San FranciscoA view of San Francisco from the Marin headlands. “Benu is very much a restaurant that’s influenced by different cultures,” Lee writes. “The cooking at Benu often explores how Asian flavors, ideas and aesthetics can harmonize with Western ones.”

Benu 4Lee at a specialty barbecue restaurant in South Korea.

Benu 3The haenyeo, or “sea women,” of Jeju Island in South Korea. During his visit, Lee and his team had the chance to meet them and photograph the haenyeo as they went about their daily free-dives.

“They are the living emblems of Korean cultural heritage and embody the resilience of its people, and, in particular, the strength and self-sacrifice of its women,” Lee writes. “And for me, their unwavering spirit is much more beautiful and palpable that can be imagined through any folklore.”

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All images from Benu by Eric Wolfinger

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Link Attack: Roy Choi in Watts; Dogs Rescued From Meat Farm; Custom Emoji Keyboard

Video: Roy Choi Wants the Next Food Revolution to Start in Watts

The first location will be in Watts at a site that used to be smoke shop and a barbershop. Choi says that his team wanted to open a location somewhere in South Los Angeles, and they ended up focusing on Watts because of the sense of community they found there. (LAist)

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Thirteen frightened young dogs and puppies arrived in San Francisco in a van Thursday, some trembling, tails between their legs, others with sad but hopeful eyes, and all of them unaware of how close they came to an agonizing, gruesome death. (SF Gate)

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Roy Choi’s Loco’l Indiegogo Campaign Meets $100K Goal

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

Last night, chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson reached their $100,000 crowdfunding goal for their “revolutionary” fast food chain Loco’l, making it the most successful food campaign on Indiegogo, reports L.A. Eater.

Choi and Patterson first launched their crowdfunding campaign in January in order to provide affordable, nutritious and locally-sourced fast food to inner city areas.

Now that Loco’l is fully funded on the crowdfunding side, it looks like the chain’s first two locations, Los Angeles’ Watts and San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhoods, are good to go. Once the two spots are up and running, Choi and Patterson will look to expand their chain to other possible locations, including East Oakland, Pacoima, Richmond and Anaheim.

Today is the last day of the Loco’l crowdfunding campaign, so if you still want to contribute, you can donate a few bucks on the campaign’s Indiegogo page.

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Featured image via Loco’l Indiegogo page

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Roy Choi Reveals Second Loco’l Restaurant in Watts, Los Angeles

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s commitment to bring affordable, locally-sourced fast food to the inner city took another step forward today. The social media-savvy Choi revealed on Twitter that the future second location of Loco’l will be in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

According to L.A. Eater, the area is just a few blocks away from the recognizable Watts Towers and about 7.5 miles south of Downtown. This isn’t the first time the chef has opened an eatery in South L.A. Last summer, Choi opened Three Worlds Cafe in South Central, a neighborhood where he has close connections with the locals.

The first Loco’l restaurant will open in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. There hasn’t been a specific opening date for either restaurant, but they are both slated to open this year. You can check out their crowdfunding effort on Indiegogo to learn more about the Loco’l team or even contribute to the campaign.

Image via L.A. Eater

Roy Daniel

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant Loco’l Launches Crowdfunding Effort

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Fast food chains aren’t known to crowdfund, but Loco’l isn’t your normal fast food restaurant. Spearheaded by chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Loco’l is touted as a locally sourced and affordable fast food option.

The first location is set to open in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood later this year. The funds from the Indiegogo campaign will go towards building that first restaurant. As of Jan. 14, 2015, the campaign has raised 7 percent of its $150,000 goal.

“Our vision with Loco’l is to create a fast food concept that’s delicious, but do it with the heart of a chef,” the Indiegogo campaign page says. “As chefs, we’re approaching it just like we would another restaurant … Then on the other side of it is being aware of what fast food is and what it’s become in America, and why it’s so important, popular, and powerful. Not trying to throw all of those things away.”

“We’re just trying to take it back to basics,” the page continues. “A lot of these fast food chains weren’t evil before. Somehow along the line as businesses grow, money and things start to change your decisions. Then before you know it, sometimes you don’t know which way is up anymore. Our philosophy in this is always to know which way is up. As chefs, we would never get to the point where we would be serving poison to people.”

One basic staple of fast food is the burger, and according to Choi, the cornerstone of Loco’l will be a 99 cent burger. The challenge will be not to make it a gourmet burger, but something that “feels, tastes, looks, smells, and sits in your hand just like a Quarter Pounder.”

Perks for contributors include with a social media shout-out, Loco’l sticker, signed copies of the chefs’ individual books (including Choi’s L.A. Son), and even opportunities to personally hang out with the chefs or get a private cooking class with Chef Chad Robertson from Tartine.

Patterson Choi

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant to Open in San Francisco Next Year

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Not many individuals can create a fast food chain from the ground up, but not everyone is Roy Choi.

After announcing his latest venture with Chef Daniel Patterson back in the summer, Choi made the official announcement yesterday that the first location of the chain, called loco’l, will be in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Locals can expect the restaurant to open by late spring/early summer.

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Choi and Patterson unveiled their plans for the fast food chain back in August at the MAD3 symposium. Patterson said that they planned to start a business that could grow quickly to “supplant the fast-food chains and convenience stores that separate our youth from the taste of real food.”

“I envisioned a new kind of fast-food restaurant that served real food in a nice environment, and which could contribute to the neighborhood around it in myriad ways,” he added. “My answer lay to the south, in Los Angeles, where Roy Choi was bringing people together from all over the city around Kogi—food trucks that served tasty, hard-to-categorize food.”

For Roy Choi, loco’l is his latest project in offering affordable and healthy options–a rare “food oasis–to neighborhoods that are considered “food deserts.” Last year, Choi opened 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, an idea that originated from a fruit cart project Choi was running at the local Jefferson High School.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor,” Choi said to Inside Scoop SF in August. “We will be using all our sciences and knowledge and sixth sense as restaurateurs/chefs to create a concept people love and a menu they crave, but keep it all in the pocket, keep it all affordable and delicious, and speak to what the people want.”

The location was seemingly the perfect fit for the restaurant, which is part of an overall community project. The intersection of Taylor Street and Turk, where loco’l will open, will be seeing was identified as one of nine “action zones” by the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership (TLHIP) with the goal of rebuilding and revamping the neighborhood. Future locations for loco’l include other inner-city “food deserts,” including Oakland, Pleasanton and Watts in L.A.

Loco’l plans to offer a menu with options like tofu-and-grain-heavy burgers, veggie bowls, falafel, rice bowls, and other items in the $2-6 range, according to Eater SF. The restaurant will also feature a “multi-use commissary kitchen” for cooking classes hosted by Patterson and The Cooking Project, a San Francisco nonprofit.

As the Bay Area gets its first taste of Roy Choi, Southern California can’t get enough of him. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) and Choi announced back in September that they were trying to open a restaurant in Los Angeles featuring some of the cuisine from Chef, a film that chronicled their road trip. Along with the Kogi truck, Choi’s current list of restaurants in Los Angeles includes 3 Worlds Cafe, Chego!, Sunny Spot, A-Frame and POT at the Line Hotel in Koreatown.

Don’t forget, Choi also has his own reality show on CNN coming up sometime in 2015, too.

Feature image via Grub Street

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