Be honest and live your truth. That's the advice of award-winning and groundbreaking chef and restaurateur Roy Choi.
Choi is the special guest of Illinois State University's Science and Technology Week, appearing to share his story of culinary innovation as the chief pioneer of the gourmet food truck movement. Choi's first truck, Kogi, hit the L.A. streets over a decade ago, serving a mashup of Korean BBQ and Mexican food to the hungry folks of L.A. Choi successful utilized technology with the emergence of the smart phone and Twitter to find those with a hunger for his imaginative creations.
But as successful as Choi is today, he has never forgotten the food trucks that came before him—the taco trucks of L.A.
"We think of ourselves as the children of those trucks. We're all one family, "said Choi. "Our idea came from just simply serving Korean BBQ inside a tortilla late night in front of the clubs. It was meant to be. We just broke through and started a revolution. It was a perfect storm of timing with technology and this hunger from people—everyone wanted something more. And we were right there giving it to them."
"We started feeding the bouncers outside of nightclubs so they would let us park there," Choi recalled. "In between the clubs we would just cruise the streets, almost like taxi driver, looking for hungry people. We'd pull over, feed people and move on."
Kogi's success took off once Choi and his team used Twitter to let the world know where they would be and what was on the menu. Then the college kids came running.
"We broke through at UCLA, USC, Cal Poly. It was really through colleges where we opened up to the world."
After the phenomenal success of Kogi, Choi went on to establish other food trucks, plus brick-and-mortar restaurants in southern California. But it's the food truck experience that Choi really cherishes. Getting to create a meal, then watch the customer eat it right there pleases him enormously.
"It's exhilarating! You're literally handing food to someone and you're seeing them maybe less than a foot away from you eating that food. So the feeling, the interactions, the ideas—they're instantaneous."
Choi is appearing in the Prairie Room of the ISU Bone Student Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17. The talk is part of the ISU Speaker Series, and is free and open to the public.
You can also listen to GLT's full interview:
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