Chef Roy Choi visits West campus for ciWeek

Roy Choi, a world renowned chef, visited DMACC West Campus as a keynote speaker at the annual ciWeek event on Wednesday, March 6.

Choi sat down with Dr. Anthony Paustian for a Q&A conversation. He shared his experience of growing up in a traditional Korean-American family in Los Angeles, and spoke about the dark periods of his youth of struggling with addictions and making bad decisions. He commented that later on, he learned from his times of hardship.

“Through it all, what I realized is that, when I finally found cooking, all of that was necessary for me to be able to cook from the soul. That dark period was actually my soul building moment.”

Choi is widely known for revolutionizing the way people think about food trucks. In 2008, Kogi, the Mexican food truck he and his friend started, gained popularity by using Twitter as a tool to tell customers where the trucks would be located. This was back when Twitter was just getting started and its purpose had not been defined yet.

“[With] Kogi, we stumbled into Twitter because it was free and we started using it to communicate our locations and our weird thoughts. People thought we were putting on this huge scavenger hunt and we weren’t. We were literally just figuring it out ourselves. Like, ‘uh there’s no parking there, let’s park over there,’” Choi said.

Kogi also helped change people’s minds about all the negative stereotypes surrounding food trucks.

“What was made in a truck doesn’t have to taste like it was made in a truck …We’re coming with the stuff and we’re going to show you that [it’s] better than a Michelin star restaurant or something.”

Choi showed people that food trucks are not unsanitary and unsafe to serve food from. He did this by educating people about the reality of food trucks and preparing the tacos with fresh ingredients.

He said he takes all of his love for cooking and people and combines them to make something truly special.

While he was chatting at West Campus, Choi also gave out tips on how to make an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. He likened the experience of eating a really good grilled cheese to going to the moon, pointing to the banner behind him with the ciWeek slogan: ‘Small Step to Giant Leaps.’

“Ninety percent of the grilled cheese you guys have eaten in your life is wack. No one crisps up the bread, they don’t put any butter on the bread. They just put it on the heat source, and the middle part gets black while the bread still stays white. The cheese, not the best cheese in the world — it’s the little details.”

CiWeek attendees, compressed next to one another in their chairs, clung onto every piece of advice from Choi. His witty responses and heartfelt intellect left the audience wanting more.

“He was relatable. I like that he gave impromptu responses,” said one student, Nathan Phillips.

At the age of 49, Roy Choi has a lot of life experience under his belt from his many jobs and all the people he has interacted with. With Kogi and his two brick and mortar restaurants, what could possibly lie in store the the chef now? As for the next step Choi said that, “I like to be behind the scenes,” and added that he would like to start an organization where he can work with the next generation of chefs.

In the words of Roy Choi, “Check everything, taste everything.”

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