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.