APRIL JOURNAL FEATURING: ROY CHOI
Posted on April 01 2019
After the success of his LA-based Korean taco truck Kogi, Roy Choi made a name for himself as one of the founders of the food truck movement. Known primarily for making elevated version of non-fancy foods and mixing cultural inspirations, Choi recently expanded by opening Best Friend in Las Vegas, a restaurant that serves a variety of Korean-American staples inspired by LA culture. The restaurant is situated behind a Best Friend convenience store, which has bar seating and sells neon-colored restaurant merch. We recently asked Choi a few questions about Best Friend, mixing culinary inspirations and more:
Can you talk a little bit about what I lead you to pursue a career in the food industry? Was there a defining moment, or did it just kind of happen naturally?
I grew up around food at home and in a family restaurant and worked in restaurants all throughout high school but never thought it'd be a career. The defining moment was rock bottom on a couch in West LA watching the Essence of Emeril show on TV where something spoke to me. I got up and turned my life around and started this journey to become a chef. Literally on a dime.
When you decided to open Best Friend in Vegas, what were you most excited about?
Feeding more people and bringing more imaginations to life in a bigger way. To be honest it's been breezy. The whole town has been super cool to us. It was time to try something new and to confront growth. Vegas came knocking, and i opened the door.
A couple of dishes on the menu speak to Korean-American culture, like the chili cheese spaghetti. Can you talk a little bit about the significance of this dish?
Koreans are kinda private people in their home life, so they experienced America together quietly in their home trying to figure this new culture out together. A lot of times that meant experimenting with American foods but adding spice or turning sauerkraut into kimchi with tabasco or making hamburger helper but with rice instead. So the chili spaghetti is just that. The idea of canned chili but spruced up with bulgogi ground beef and tabasco over cheap not al dente noodles.That's how many ate it at home.
With Best Friend, you truly created a physical experience around the menu, from the convenience store in front to the interior color choices and menu design. What was your goal with the experience design, and what were some of your inspirations?
To transport people to LA and bring them into my life like opening a family album that came alive.
On that note, what is your take on the role environmental/physical experience plays in the food industry today?
Not sure about digital world or not, but I believe in loud music, big smells, belly laughs, and warm hugs. So that is what I try to create.
Do you have any advice for young chefs and/or entrepreneurs looking to start their own business in the food industry?
Be compassionate yet confident. Make sure your food or drink tastes good number one. If you lose sight of that, then you are just posing, fronting and it's a house of cards. It may not be cool to say, but the turtle really does win the race. Don't rush, but be swift. Think but feel more. Care about your products, team, and guests. Love it or leave it.