Thursday, November 14, 2013

Roy Choi at ALOUD LA

Evan Kleiman and Roy Choi at ALOUD LA Event
on November 13, 2013.  Photo by Gary Leonard. 

Library Foundation of Los Angeles President Ken Brecher opened the L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food event by describing the audience as "truly Los Angeles...truly diverse."  The audience that gathered at ALOUD LA's event last night is a reflection of how Roy Choi, the man behind the new book L.A. Son (co-written with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan), has not only influenced Los Angeles, but undoubtedly is a part of the pulse that makes Los Angeles tick.

His conversation with KCRW's "Good Food" host Evan Kleiman highlighted the roots of Choi's life and inspirations - the influences and life moments that steered him toward where he is today.  Through their conversation, the audience traveled to Los Angeles where his parents met in the late 1960s, to Seoul where his parents returned and where Choi was born, and then back again.  We see Choi as the immigrant, the latchkey kid, the lowrider, the gambling addict, and ultimately the chef he is today.  Choi's struggles and triumphs are what makes his story great.

So if you only associate Roy Choi as a fixture in the Kogi BBQ Food Truck phenomenon - if you only look at him through a foodie lens - you are doing his story and his journey an injustice.  Klein observed it well: "Flavor doesn't just come from food...flavor comes from experience."

If Choi's experiences were laid on a map, they would zig-zag across so much of Los Angeles' expansive geography, but it is deeper than that.  Though this map is his own, it resonates with something so quintessentially Angeleno - a rich understanding of the cultures LA holds, a balancing act of global and local forces that provide LA its ongoing complexity and beauty in its expansive landscape.  His book title L.A. Son is not merely a proclamation - it is a nod to who you can become because of the people and experiences uniquely here.  

Choi claims that his life is filled with these "magical moments" - being inspired to become a chef while watching Emeril Lagasse on TV, having a random phone call from Mark Manguera about opening a food truck - but I couldn't help but recognize in the enraptured audience of ALOUD LA that L.A. Son may be its own moment for others.  L.A. Son may be a reflection of Roy Choi and his life, but in its experiences gathered together we can't help but see ourselves in that picture too and be inspired by his journey.

-Charity Tran, Editor

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