Tag Archives: Roy Choi

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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)

Dogs Rescued from South Korean Meat Farm Brought to San Francisco

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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Memoji Keyboard Allows You To Emojify Yourself

Johnny Lin, an ex-Apple engineer, created a way for users to upload their own faces as emoji. Angry Asian Man Phil Yu tries it out.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is Doing Shockingly Well in South Korea

Why is the movie such a huge hit in the South Korean film market? Cinema Blend speculates the reasons, from the visuals to the high fashion costume design to director Matthew Vaughn’s popularity in South Korea.

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23 Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2015

Modern Korean Cinema lists the Korean films they’re most looking forward to this year.

Homebrew and House Parties: How North Koreans Have Fun

“Despite restrictions on money and free time, partying is integral to North Korean culture. But how does it compare to cutting loose in the South?” writes The Guardian.

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Korean Star Jung Ho Kang May Be Much Better Than Advertised

“In so many words, clubs just didn’t see many reasons to be optimistic about Kang,” writes Bleacher Report. “But as early as it is, one wonders how many are thinking differently these days.”

Searing Complaint Against Korean Church

The Contra Costa Korean Presbyterian Church is being sued for negligence in their hiring of a youth pastor, who the plaintiff claims repeatedly sexually molester her and her sister.

Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung Pledges to Solidify Status as Leading Bank

In his inauguration speech on March 18, Shinhan Bank President Cho Yong-byoung emphasized, “I will solidify our status as a leading bank.”

Cho said, “Through ceaseless innovation, we must create new opportunities and values and maintain the highest level of profitability and soundness.”

GM Canada Gets New General Counsel and Assistant GC, Peter Cho

It won’t be Cho’s first time behind the wheel of an automotive law department. He was most recently general counsel, corporate secretary and head of government relations at Volkswagen Group Canada, and has also has worked with Volkswagen Group China and Kia Canada.

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K-Town Landmarks Hope to Begin Summer Construction

The Olympic Gateway, a long-projected landmark for Los Angeles’ Koreatown, as well as the Madang project at Da Wool Jung, are expected to begin construction as soon as mid-May.

Korean Calligraphy Exhibition Open at Chicago Korean Cultural Center

On display are about 70 works by students of Kit-beol Village Calligrapher Lee Chul-woo. (Korea Times)

Four Korean American Officers Join Fairfax County Police Department After Graduating Academy

Arthur Cho, John Hong, Seung Meang and Shane Oh were among the 60 new police officers and deputies who graduated from the academy. This is the first time in the history of the department that an academy class had this many Korean-American graduates. (Centreville Independent)

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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

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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.

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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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Chef Corey Lee’s Benu Receives Three Michelin Stars

by JAMES S. KIM

San Francisco’s reputation for excellent cuisine soared as two more of its restaurants were awarded three stars by the 2015 Michelin Guide to Bay Area restaurants, which was released earlier today.

As of yesterday, Chef Corey Lee’s Benu and Joshua Skenes’ Saison joined Bay Area’s restaurants the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood in the esteemed three-star category.

Michelin’s international director told Mercury News what set Benu and Saison apart were a “dazzling and distinctive fusion of local ingredients, Asian inspiration and Northern Californian gastronomic sensibility.”

Lee opened Benu in August 2010 and was given two stars by Michelin in October 2011. KoreAm had the opportunity to talk to him then about the food he serves, as well as his journey to becoming one of the most well-known chefs in San Francsico. You can read the article here from the November 2011 issue of KoreAm.

Expect to hear a lot more about Lee and Skenes and their cuisine in the coming months. Lee, a French Laundry alum, opened Monsieur Benjamin, a 90-seat bistro, over the summer, and he is putting together a cookbook. Skenes also has one on the way, and he plans to open a hand-pulled noodle restaurant with Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman in 2015.

Mercury News also noted the rise of Asian-inspired restaurants on the Michelin list. Along with Benu and Saison, sushi restaurants Kusakabe and Maruya joined the one-star roster. Seven out of the 13 newcomers to the 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand honors, which is bestowed on excellent restaurants where two courses and a glass of wine costs $40 or less, were Chinese, Japanese or Asian-inspired. You can find the full list of the 2015 restaurants here.

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According to SF Gate, it’s the first time in history that San Francisco proper has had a three-star Michelin restaurant, let alone two. The French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood are both in Napa Valley.

If you’re looking to make a reservation at the newly-christened Benu or Saison, do it quickly and expect to pay a good amount. Saison was already among the most expensive restaurants in America, and Benu could understandably raise their prices.

The West Coast now boasts four Michelin three-star restaurants, although unfortunately for Southern Californians, they’re all in the Bay Area. Chef Roy Choi is quick to defend the Southland, however.

The 2015 Michelin dining guide for San Francisco, one of just three U.S. regions to have its own guide, goes on sale today. The Michelin Guide discontinued its Los Angeles version two years ago.

Photo by Vivien Kim Thorp

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Roy Choi to Launch Healthy, Affordable Fast Food Chain

by JAMES S. KIM

Is there anything this man isn’t doing?

In his latest culinary venture, chef Roy Choi is partnering up with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson to launch a new chain of fast food restaurants called Loco’l. The chefs made the announcement on Monday at MAD4, the fourth annual Copenhagen conference for chefs, cooks and farmers.

“We want to go toe to toe with fast food chains and offer the community a choice,” Choi told Inside Scoop SF.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor. 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.”

All items on the menu will range from $2-$6 in order to compete with places like McDonald’s and Burger King. The recipes will be prepared by Patterson, who owns the Coi in San Francisco and has appeared on PBS’s Mind of a Chef. According to LA Eater, dishes will include burgers made with a beef and tofu mixture, salads, rice bowls, and “cross-cultural” items like falafel and tacos–the latter of which Choi knows a thing or two about.

For the lucky NorCal folk, Choi and Patterson plan to open the first Loco’l branch in San Francisco in spring 2015, and Los Angeles will get its own a few months later.

“High-level chefs have an opportunity to do much more than just cook for the few people who can afford it,” Patterson said in a blog post on the MAD website. “We can create real change, in this case, by building a better business. As much as thoughtful articles and speeches and books are important in shifting how we think, they are not going to solve the food problems we have in our country.

“If we can open profitable restaurants that are inexpensive and serve delicious food made with real ingredients; if we bring new options to places that currently lack quality food; if we cook with heart; if we create an environment of warmth, generosity and caring; if we value the people with less money just as much as the ones with plenty, we can make a difference.”

At last year’s MAD conference, Choi emphasized social responsibility among chefs to bring delicious, healthy food to people in need. And as busy as he’s been, especially with the recently opened Commissary restaurant at the Line Hotel in Koreatown, where he also has Pot, Pot Cafe and Pot Bar, the chef appears to be doing his part to carry out that vision.

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Last year, Choi opened the 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, which is often referred to as a food desert because of the lack of healthy food options available in the area. With its fresh juices, smoothies and coffee the goal was to bring healthy, delicious options to a place where chefs and restaurants normally kept away from, as well as provide a place for local youth to frequent.

Choi said Loco’l was the beginning of a “ripple movement,” and like the inspiration for its name, it’s going to be crazy.

“Loco–we are crazy to do this and you’re crazy to believe it,” he said. “Local–it’s about the community and everyone, not just the ones that can afford it. Loco’l.”

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The Line Hotel And Why It’s Cool To Be Korean In Los Angeles

Follow the Line

Out of all the places to open a hip new L.A. hotel, why would one choose Koreatown? Because it’s apparently “cool” now to be Korean.

by JIMMY LEE
Photos by ADRIAN GAUT

What would you do if you were a hotshot real estate developer, with a reputation for producing stylish boutique hotels frequented by today’s class of cool kids, looking to build your first property in Los Angeles proper? Well, if you’re Andrew Zobler, the man behind the Ace Hotels in New York and Palm Springs, you would turn to hotshot chef Roy Choi, the culinary mind behind the Kogi food trucks and a growing empire of restaurants throughout the city.

It’s just that Choi basically told him this: not interested. “It felt like a real job again,” said Choi. “That’s the truth. It had everything to do with the fact that, ever since Kogi happened, Kogi bought me freedom. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do in life, and that’s a very rare thing to have. And once you have it, I felt like this project would be giving that freedom back.”

Zobler, of course, persisted, and now Choi is running not just one restaurant but two, named Pot and Commissary (the latter will begin serving a fruit and vegetable-focused menu later this year), as well as a bakery and a bar in the lobby of the Line Hotel, which recently opened on Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Koreatown. It just made Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Hot List of the 33 best new hotels in the world for essentially oozing style and bringing in “some of L.A.’s coolest and most innovative minds, including street food king Chef Roy Choi,” said the write-up.

Choi is not the only talent that Zobler has tapped to make the Line a destination not just for travelers but also for Los Angeles locals. The Houston Brothers, noted nightlife impresarios with bars and lounges mostly in Hollywood, will operate a club/lounge called Speek. And retail outlet Poketo, co-founded by Korean American Angie Myung and her husband Ted Vadakan, opened their second store in the hotel. With these collaborators on board, Zobler has in line (bad pun intended) multiple pieces to attract even more people, including the cool and hip, into Koreatown.

But the Line is not the only hipster game in K-town. In fact, on the very same block is the Normandie Hotel, another recently renovated boutique establishment, which has its own coolness credentials: a soon-to-open bar from Cedd Moses, who’s a central figure in turning Downtown L.A. into a teeming nightlife destination, with spots like the Golden Gopher and Broadway Bar.

So get ready, Koreatown, for an invasion of skinny jeans.

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It’ s a stark contrast to
nadir: the fires and looting of the 1992 L.A. riots. There was little consideration paid to the concerns of Korean Americans at that time. Back then, there was a sense that Koreatown was under siege, with Korean Americans forced to barricade themselves from what felt like relentless attacks not only from looters but also politicians and the media. Those memories have not faded, including for those involved with the Line.

Jonnie and Mark Houston, twins from a German-Irish father and a Thai-Chinese mother, grew up living in Koreatown. In fact, Jonnie’ s best friend at the time was a Korean American whose parents’ liquor store was destroyed in the riots. Poketo’ s Angie Myung, who’ s from the L.A. suburb of Diamond Bar and was in high school in 1992, remembered going to Koreatown after the riots and seeing all the burnt stores. “It felt like an apocalypse that happened,” said Myung. Despite all that they lost, many Korean American business owners chose not to abandon the neighborhood, but to rebuild. And Koreatown today, which has also seen an infusion of investment from South Korea, is not only bigger but still expanding and thriving, most notably for its restaurants and a nightlife that runs well past last call and into the early morning. There’s one other noted difference from the days before the riots: Koreatown is more welcoming to non-Koreans. Some restaurants today still have menus only in Hangeul, but their numbers appear to be in the decline.

“[The riots] brought some positive changes. The Korean immigrants that owned businesses there saw that they couldn’t survive on their own island,” said Myung. “They realized they had to open up. And not only that, but it was actually very profitable and successful for them the more they opened.”

“If you weren’t Korean, they wouldn’t let you in. It was very closed off to non-Koreans,” said Jonnie Houston. “When you walk up to a door and you don’t speak Korean, they’re like get away. A lot of that has changed. It’s a lot more friendly to everybody now.”

The Houstons also noted that Koreans have been innovative when it comes to operating dance clubs. “Korean culture has brought to the table bottle service and the little bells that you press for service,” said Mark Houston, referring to how non-Korean clubs have adopted these practices. 
 These Koreatown factors, and the availability of what was most recently called the Wilshire Radisson Hotel, a mid-century modern design from architecture firm Daniel Johnson Mann & Mendenhall built in 1964, is how the Line came to be. “We loved the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the architecture of the building,” said Zobler in an email interview, as to why he chose Koreatown, and not, say, Venice or Hollywood, areas that might better fit the sensibility of his past developments. (Zobler’ s company, the New York-based Sydell Group, was not involved with the new Ace Hotel that recently opened in Downtown.)

“Koreatown is a very special L.A.- only place,” said Zobler. “We love what is coming out of this community and out of Korea culturally, and the food—we love the food. We also love that the neighborhood is geographically in the center of many of the things we love most about L.A.—Hollywood, Downtown, Beverly Hills, Silver Lake—and that it sits right on a Metro [subway] stop.”

The zeal for Koreatown and Koreans that Zobler has expressed is not isolated. For lack of a better phrase, it’s kind of cool to be Korean right now. Tune into a TV cooking competition these days and a Korean American is bound to be one of the culinary contestants. Anthony Bourdain recently spoke the praises of KA chefs, and his CNN travel show’s premiere episode focused not on Los Angeles but specifically Koreatown.

“I totally feel like I’m much cooler being Korean now than ever,” said Myung, whose first Poketo store in L.A.’s Arts District does more than sell products. It hosts art shows and workshops, including a kimchi-making class taught by her mom—activities that she anticipates will also be offered at the Line’s outlet. “I think it has a lot to do with Korean pop culture, that’s taking over the whole world. It’s definitely come to the U.S. Come on, ‘Gangnam Style?’”

Myung, 39, cites her generation’s members, as well as the next, who have chosen more creative fields. “[We] have made a lot of strides,” said Myung. “Koreans are just more visible now.”

At the center of the team assembled by Zobler is Choi, arguably the most high-profile Korean American chef today. “We wanted, as a paramount matter in our design and choice of collaborators, to celebrate the local community and urban L.A. in general. We brought in Roy Choi and the Houston Brothers who were raised in the neighborhood to be our guides,” said Zobler.

The contribution that the Houston Brothers, who shop at their nearby HK Korean supermarket and have frequented Koreatown bars, are bringing to the Line will reflect the surrounding neighborhood that they know well. Speek will be a club that includes a dance floor, live music and that other local nightlife staple: the noraebang. “We definitely wanted it to be a homage to Koreatown and what they’ve created, and embrace it and put our little twist on it,” said Jonnie. Plus, the cocktail program will feature Korean flavors: think Korean pears and even barbecue.

For Choi, who will be cooking some pretty straight-up Korean food for the first time with the restaurant Pot, there’s a lot to think about. “It’s a huge project, with a lot of employees, a lot of responsibility, a lot of money invested,” said Choi. “I am nervous about serving Korean food in Koreatown. But it’s not a nervous of failure; it’s a nervous of, like, I really want people to enjoy it. I want the Korean and Koreatown residents to really know that we’re honest—all our food, once you’ve taste it, tastes like any other Korean [food].”

But, with Choi involved, there’s bound to be something out of the ordinary, and he pointed out the composition of his staff. “That no one cooking in the kitchen is Korean, except me. And I was never trained in Korean food—that’s pretty unique, wouldn’t you say?”

It’s also a sign of Koreatown evolving with more complex and dynamic interpersonal relationships at play—it’s not just ajummas in the kitchens ordering around the many Latinos often employed in the neighborhood’s restaurants. There’s a diverse staff at Pot, and they just look like ajummas. One of Choi’ s cheeky decisions is for the hostess to wear clothes an ajumma would wear: think baggy pants and mismatched prints.

On a more serious note, Choi credited the team he works with for convincing him to finally say yes to Zobler. “And once they talked me into it, … I realized there’s something special and important that we can do here,” said Choi. “I can be somewhat of a bridge … to the neighborhood, and to all the people who live here, and everything we’ve gone through. It’s almost like I saw it as, if you think about the first Koreans who came here and where we are now. This can be a little marker in that, like a gift back.”

L.A. chef Roy Choi is a partner in the Line venture, with two restaurants in the hotel.