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May 2, 2012 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Roy Choi, co-founder and head chef of Kogi Korean BBQ, the Los Angeles food truck that became famous (and much imitated) for its innovative Korean-Mexican fusion tacos and its use of social networking (previously), has announced on his weblog that he's no longer eating meat. Choi is considering leaving cooking altogether.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico (69 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
If Choi still enjoys cooking, going veg could still be a workable, if perhaps less profitable business for a fast food truck. Seattle's Maximus Minimus offers a vegetarian option, for example, and I rarely see empty lines in front of its truck.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2012


eponysterical, señor.
posted by mwhybark at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


I had a good friend who, at the age of 70, told me about a vivid and traumatic nightmare she'd had. She said she found herself confronted by a large group of animals with angry eyes. When she asked why they were there, one responded, "we are the animals you have eaten."

She ate a lot less meat after that.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure I understood anything of what he was trying to say. This is not some weird back-hand insult either; good for him or whatever, but I'm just kinda stumped and befuddled.

So, um, what?
posted by aramaic at 11:04 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This makes sense, because once you stop eating meat you can't cook anything. Wait, what?
People that I try to convince in business that there is something special here, right here..only ask me about profitability.

Profitability?

Maybe I talk like I’m from Saturn but I don’t understand profitability.

Profitability when our whole existence is at stake?

Fuck you.
This is a great example of someone who's a few steps up on Maslow's pyramid not understanding the mindset of someone else who's still working on the security/survival part.
posted by mullingitover at 11:04 AM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'm reading about these great vegan/vegetarian food trucks all the time (damn you and your stupid laws about food trucks, Quebec!) and Choi could handily redo his entire menu if he wanted.
posted by Kitteh at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2012


I've seen more coherent blog posts. Then again, I've seen less coherent as well. Sounds the like the guy feels like he's in a bit of rut, professionally and spiritually.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2012


I wish my first and last names rhymed, too.
posted by item at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2012


He leaves a comment suggesting he's probably not quitting cooking:
Jane Mountain- I’m not quitting, just beginning something new
Mark- working on new ways, promise
Anony Mous- burnt out or bipolar? I don’t think so…Schizophrenic? Maybe. Cooking is serious to me.Just trying to find balance with the joy.
AK- I’ve done a lot in the food space and just searching for another sound. I love cooking so deeply.
Dinah- I have had many good meals on the East Side. Korean cooking deals with a lot of veggies as well. It was more of a question to myself of how will I start this new journey.
Thanks to all of you.
posted by maudlin at 11:11 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


He moved past food trucks a while ago. The alibi room has food similar to the trucks, and a frame has totally different (and awesomely delicious) food. Both have really good cocktails, as well.

The last time I was at A-frame we got a not-on-the-menu aged ribeye that was served with a big bowl of greens to make kinda-tacos with. It was amazing. And Roy was super nice - he tried to give us dessert for trying their new and not-cheap thing, but we were too full, so he promised he'd remember us and give us desert next time.

Just for the sake of my own enjoyment of food, I really hope he doesn't quit. The going veggie thing is obviously a personal choice he has to make, but I'll keep trying whatever he makes.
posted by flaterik at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't know anything about vegan Korean-Mexican cooking, but as an omnivore I totally support restaurants and chefs/cooks going vegan and offering vegan food. Especially if it's good food, and there's some really good vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Seattle that my vegan friend takes me to sometimes.

Vegan food can be and is often incredibly delicious, and it doesn't all have to be health food. Dark chocolate is vegan, for example, and things like coconut oil are incredibly rich and delicious.

One of the reasons why I strongly encourage vegan restaurants is because the more restaurants (and vegans/vegetarians) that there are, the cheaper that it gets for producing and distributing vegan food.

It's expensive to be vegetarian and vegan and do it correctly. The only real reason why it's more expensive (than, say, going to McDonald's) is because meat and dairy as an industry is heavily entrenched, leveraged and even often heavily subsidized.

It should be *cheaper* to eat vegan, not more expensive.
posted by loquacious at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [11 favorites]




This is a great example of someone who's a few steps up on Maslow's pyramid not understanding the mindset of someone else who's still working on the security/survival part.

He's been very successful, but if I had to guess, he's talking about people caring more about making MORE money past what you need to be comfortable, rather than concentrating on quality and interesting undertakings. I don't know him personally, but from everything I've heard and read, it'd be pretty shocking for him to forget people who have to make do with very little.
posted by flaterik at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


the circle of life
posted by Bwithh at 11:40 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a great example of someone who's a few steps up on Maslow's pyramid not understanding the mindset of someone else who's still working on the security/survival part.

This is a very icky argument. Are you saying he should do something he believes is unethical to create jobs?
posted by DU at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some other shit I’ve been hearing is the “now” joke of – oh those are first world problems. What does that even fucking mean?

I don't understand the hate for this particular joke. To me it seems like a gallows humor acknowledgement of the absurdity of worrying about a missing iPhone charger (or whatever) when food and shelter concerns take up all or nearly all of the efforts of most people on the planet.

Not "Fuck you, third world filthy animals! I bought two iPhones just to spite you!" but "Fuck me for being upset about a problem that I am actually wildly fortunate to have."

It's not a joke that is necessarily productive, but isn't it a useful and correct thing to keep in mind the stark circumstances of other human beings occasionally while I take advantage of the privileges many humans will never come close to having? I thought it was a joke meant to sober me for a minute.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a joke that is necessarily productive, but isn't it a useful and correct thing to keep in mind the stark circumstances of other human beings occasionally while I take advantage of the privileges many humans will never come close to having? I thought it was a joke meant to sober me for a minute.

Yes. And as such it is actually productive.

That's not to say it was applied correctly, here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:56 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know the guy. But my first thought on reading that is, is he okay? Should some of his friends maybe check in on him and make sure he's all right?
posted by Naberius at 12:06 PM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wish my first and last names rhymed, too.

Like Sean Bean?
posted by Edogy at 12:07 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Listen, really.. who gives a fuck about some dude and his FOOD TRUCK? These food trucks have become a total scourge and as a New Yorker I'm so sick of them so hey, kudos to him for leaving the biz.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:17 PM on May 2, 2012


Anony Mous- burnt out or bipolar? I don’t think so…Schizophrenic? Maybe. Cooking is serious to me.Just trying to find balance with the joy.

The more Internet I do, the more I swear there is some kind of a link between skipping the space after the end of a sentence and mental illness. It's like some kind of textual dyskinesia.
posted by floam at 12:20 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sweet. Maybe Kogi will have better veg options — their tofu tacos suck.
posted by klangklangston at 12:21 PM on May 2, 2012


beautiful. We need more people like this, putting their heart on the line..
posted by kuatto at 12:24 PM on May 2, 2012


ReeMonster, 1- He's from LA and we fucking love our food trucks here. We don't actually care what you think in new york. 2- You didn't read the thread, did you? He has two successful and delicious brick and mortar restaurants.
posted by flaterik at 12:33 PM on May 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


I found the blog post mildly incomprehensible, but what I get out of his rant is:
  1. History is unimportant; let's totally forget about what happened in 1992.
  2. I am burnt out and I'm have a bit of a personal and spiritual crisis.
  3. I want to have less impact on the environment, so I'm going to stop eating meat (I'm reading between the lines a bit on this one).
  4. I can't be a cook if I don't eat meat (what?!) so I might quit the business.
This reads more like a late night rant, perhaps fuelled by stress (or mental illness, as others have suggested), than a serious and meaningful discussion of what it means to preserve the world for our children (which is what I think is supposed to be the crux of his argument).
posted by asnider at 12:38 PM on May 2, 2012


Also, Roy is not exactly shy about the fact that he's a big stoner. So... yeah. The chances that he was high when he wrote that are pretty, uh, high.
posted by flaterik at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2012


I don’t get the punch line and that shit ain’t funny.

Humorlessness is not the way to a better world.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:41 PM on May 2, 2012


This is a blog, not a peer reviewed essay. We may want to adjust our expectations accordingly.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, hey, I forgot about chego. Three non-truck restaurants.
posted by flaterik at 12:49 PM on May 2, 2012


This is definitely an unfiltered stream of conscious rant. However, Choi has talked about having a breakdown before, very early in his career, before Kogi. This reads like the thoughts of someone under a lot of stress, musing about what's stressing him out and trying to find ways to get mentally healthy.
posted by me3dia at 1:01 PM on May 2, 2012


It's a bummer he didn't get the grass-finished/pastured meat religion instead of the no-meat religion.
posted by vespabelle at 1:08 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


...from LA and we fucking love our food trucks here.

Hey, people love the food trucks in NYC too. At least, many Brooklynites do.
posted by ReeMonster at 1:14 PM on May 2, 2012


This is a blog, not a peer reviewed essay.

We are the peers. This is our review.
posted by The World Famous at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a blog, not a peer reviewed essay. We may want to adjust our expectations accordingly.

Just because it's a blog doesn't mean that it can't be well written. I don't think anyone is expecting a Pulitzer-worthy essay, but something that is more "I am thinking about getting out of the business, here are the reasons why" and less "fuck this, fuck that, I'm stressed and angry" wouldn't be too much ask, especially given that the post in question is arguably part of his business' image.

Then again, maybe this fits with the image his business projects. I don't know Choi or his business.
posted by asnider at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2012


He sounds like he's having some kind of crisis--whether it's ethical or spiritual or psychological is probably for the people who know him in person to say, and to offer him help with.

I can totally see why the idea of transforming his restaurants and food trucks to vegan or even vegetarian establishments would feel daunting to him, and maybe trying a new career will be the right answer for him. I hope he has the resources to help his employees transition into new jobs with the greatest ease possible.

Certainly his candor in going public with his concerns is commendable. I admire everyone who engages the ethics of daily living directly, even the people who came up with different answers than I did (I am a totally unrepentant meat-eater).
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2012


man, some people have a very narrow perspective on what human communication can be comprised of. read the rest of the guy's blog before you judge. or better yet, don't judge at all. he seems to have just lost a friend, seen some people/kids in his hometown living poor and starving, and then having meat consumption made very personal to him. so he's questioning his role in making and selling food. and maybe having a bit of spiritual introspection. on his personal forum used to communicate with the world however he chooses. damn.
posted by ninjew at 1:30 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


read the rest of the guy's blog before you judge.

Do we have to read the entirety of every blog that has a post turned into a MeFi FPP before commenting on it?
posted by asnider at 1:34 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


DU: "This is a very icky argument. Are you saying he should do something he believes is unethical to create jobs?"

It sounds like he's talking to other people who are going to him for advice about getting into the food truck industry, and one of the common themes is profitability. He doesn't have to worry about that because his food truck business is a raging success, so much so that worrying about profitability is the furthest thing from his mind. He's more worried about his art, his legacy, etc. He can afford to have this mindset because of the raging success, but it's not a very good excuse to run around saying 'fuck you' to people who still have to worry about mundane concerns like making a living.
posted by mullingitover at 2:02 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or, when he talks to people about other ventures (of which he has more non-trucks than trucks - am I talking into a vacuum here?), the only considerations he hears are profit, he cares more about food and people than profit, and is sick of profit being the ONLY thing that people care about.

A big chunk of the rest of the entry is him being upset about conditions in poor parts of LA; why are you assuming the worst about this statement?
posted by flaterik at 2:09 PM on May 2, 2012


I don't think anyone is expecting a Pulitzer-worthy essay, but something that is more "I am thinking about getting out of the business, here are the reasons why" and less "fuck this, fuck that, I'm stressed and angry" wouldn't be too much ask

...and then...

I don't know Choi or his business.

...and then...

Do we have to read the entirety of every blog that has a post turned into a MeFi FPP before commenting on it?

I don't think anyone is expecting everyone to read the entirety of every blog that has a post turned into a MeFi FPP before commenting on it, but taking the time to read enough of a blog so that you have a basic understanding of the person who wrote it and/or his business wouldn't be too much to ask.
posted by davejay at 2:20 PM on May 2, 2012


i love all of roy's ventures around town and he's really come to embody LA's spirit...at least in a culinary manner. he's the one who's crazy idea pushed food trucks to be the force they are now. if his denouncement** of meat leads to more vegetarian or vegan options around town, i'm all for it.

this thread is making me hungry...

**=not really sure if that's the right word
posted by raihan_ at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2012


he cares more about food and people than profit

It's cute when people who already have successful businesses and financial security pretend that they don't care whether their business is successful or whether they have financial security.
posted by The World Famous at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think he's saying that at all, and I don't know why you are insisting that he is.

There's a difference between "not being successful" and "not caring about profit first"
posted by flaterik at 2:51 PM on May 2, 2012


His third world comment seems to me to be saying we need to examine the conditions right here in Los Angeles. It's quite common in public health circles to refer to the fact that the poor parts of LA fit the profile of third world health problems.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2012


Growing and preparing food is a very high labor/low profit margin sorta thing unless you mechanize the fuck out of it and scale it up.

The sense I get is that he isn't interested in, say, franchising koji. If he cared about profit first, he would have done that already and we'd probably eventually be talking about the koji over-expansion much in the way pinkberry is now discussed.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:03 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think "denunciation" may have been the word you were looking for, raihan_? Agree that more options is always good, if he chooses to stay in the restaurant/food truck field.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:04 PM on May 2, 2012


I am sure his investors are not happy about this post. I hope he's okay.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 3:07 PM on May 2, 2012


Everything he says makes perfect sense if you listen to enough Wu-Tang Clan.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


And here is a recent interview where he says he could take on a ton of new projects. He's definitely going through some shit.
posted by flaterik at 3:22 PM on May 2, 2012



It's cute when people who already have successful businesses and financial security pretend that they don't care whether their business is successful or whether they have financial security.
posted by The World Famous



Sure. Or it's a damn shame that most people are fighting just to survive, and can't afford to put people above profit.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:23 PM on May 2, 2012


Noooooooooo

I love Roy Choi and it's primarily because of his delicious meat dishes. Seriously some of my favorite food ever. If he ever wants aback we for a DC restaurant I'm so in.
posted by whoaali at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2012


Sure. Or it's a damn shame that most people are fighting just to survive, and can't afford to put people above profit.

Can't it be both?
posted by The World Famous at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2012


Can't you understand the difference between [not caring]"whether their business is successful or whether they have financial security.", and not wanting to focus on profitability.

You can have a business that is providing for everyone that's a part of it and have it be breaking even.
posted by flaterik at 3:42 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't you understand the difference between [not caring]"whether their business is successful or whether they have financial security.", and not wanting to focus on profitability.

Yes, I can.

You can have a business that is providing for everyone that's a part of it and have it be breaking even.

Yes, if the people who make a living off of the profit are already well-off enough, sure.
posted by The World Famous at 3:56 PM on May 2, 2012


Roy Choi has two partners, who are the money people, he handles the cooking. According to some reports, they are preparing to do more and looking into ways to expand their brand(s) in a big way, and I would bet that's where this is coming from.
posted by cell divide at 4:31 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Yes, if the people who make a living off of the profit are already well-off enough, sure."

I think that the word "profit" is being used in different ways. I think the disagreement comes from seeing wages as part of the overhead — i.e. it's possible to pay people well and break even as a business if you regard wages as a cost (a situation where you wouldn't be putting away money on top of that — profit — for future investment and growth) — then there's no one who needs to be provided for out of the "profit" per se. However, if you think about owners as living off of the profit of their business — i.e. their wages are not already factored in — then your argument makes more sense.
posted by klangklangston at 5:07 PM on May 2, 2012


I wish my first and last names rhymed, too.

His real name is Sukmoon Choi.

How do I know? I went to Jr. High and High School with him. I'd never heard of Kogi BBQ (I'm not at all participating in the Food Truck craze which is sweeping L.A.) but a name like Roy Choi (which is what he's always gone by) is hard to forget.

He was a total goof-off in school, constantly getting in trouble, got terrible grades, but was always popular and funny. It was a very wealthy school district, and his parents were very well off (he got a brand new low-rider Chevy Blazer for his birthday, as I recall)

But despite his Class Clown antics and academic underachievement, my friend and I decided back then that he was "most likely to become famous and successful." At the time, we presumed it would be in show business (he went to USC film school after graduation)

Haven't talked to Roy in 20+ years, but it's great to see he's become so successful, though I'll be damned if I will EVER wait 2 hours for food from a truck.

Maybe if I wear a Villa Park High School sweatshirt he'll give me cuts. I'm pretty sure he still owes me from that one day at the lunch counter.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:33 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish my first and last names rhymed, too.

There is no Korean surname that sounds like 'Choy'. The romanization he uses for his surname is a clumsy one; it sounds more like 'Chway' with a barely-pronounced 'w' sound.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 PM on May 2, 2012


Although it may be possible that he actually pronounces it the way it is spelled, which is odd, but maybe that's the way Korean-Americans go sometimes. I dunno.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:13 PM on May 2, 2012


I'll be damned if I will EVER wait 2 hours for food from a truck.

The huge insta-lines have really chilled out since it's no longer novel and there is a ton of competition now, so you are unlikely to be asked to.
posted by flaterik at 6:15 PM on May 2, 2012


That's good news, cuz those tacos do look damn tasty.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:20 PM on May 2, 2012


Actually, come to think of it (and to continue this derail, sorry), I have actually heard Korean Americans pronounce their own last name as it's spelled in English, not as it actually sounds in Korean -- 박 pronounced 'Park' for example, so maybe he really does say 'Choy'. That would be... disconcerting.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:44 PM on May 2, 2012


진짜?
posted by bardic at 8:34 PM on May 2, 2012


정말로.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:41 PM on May 2, 2012


maybe he really does say 'Choy'. That would be... disconcerting.

It probably varies depending on context. At a Korean cultural festival, maybe he'd use the "correct" pronunciation. All I know is that in 6 years of classes with the guy, it was pronounced "Choy" without exception.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:16 PM on May 2, 2012


Yeah, I know someone who pronounces that same last name "Choy", at least when she's speaking English. I don't think it's an unusual pronunciation for Korean-Americans who use that transliteration.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:21 PM on May 2, 2012


Huh. Well, there you go. I guess it makes more sense than constantly having to correct people who are, after all, pronouncing the name as it is spelled.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:08 PM on May 2, 2012


Unless you want to be in the bathroom all day, you have to eat vegetarian off the trucks that stop at my office.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:51 PM on May 2, 2012


TheRedArmy: "Some other shit I’ve been hearing is the “now” joke of – oh those are first world problems. What does that even fucking mean?

I don't understand the hate for this particular joke. To me it seems like a gallows humor acknowledgement of the absurdity of worrying about a missing iPhone charger (or whatever) when food and shelter concerns take up all or nearly all of the efforts of most people on the planet.

Not "Fuck you, third world filthy animals! I bought two iPhones just to spite you!" but "Fuck me for being upset about a problem that I am actually wildly fortunate to have."

It's not a joke that is necessarily productive, but isn't it a useful and correct thing to keep in mind the stark circumstances of other human beings occasionally while I take advantage of the privileges many humans will never come close to having? I thought it was a joke meant to sober me for a minute.
"

I work in a meat department, and I am afraid I was feeling that, when, very near Thanksgiving, I had customers complaining they we were out of all white meat turkey breast roasts. I thought "You assholes. There are people out there that would sell themselves for the scraps off your table, and you complain you don't want dark meat mixed in with your turkey roasts. It's a good thing I am a non-violent person. Fuck you, the horse you rode in on, and the dog that followed you..." That situation, folks, is what I see as a first world problem.
posted by Samizdata at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2012


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