The Eat Sheet: Kogi BBQ Founder Roy Choi to Pen Memoir about L.A. Food
Roy Choi, the co-founder of L.A.'s popular Kogi BBQ trucks has signed to write Spaghetti Junction: Riding Shotgun with an L.A. Chef. The book will be one of the first three titles released on Anthony Bourdain's new imprint at Ecco Books. Publication is scheduled for 2013.
Choi, a classically trained chef and the valedictorian of his class at the Culinary Institute of America, is the cooking impresario behind the Kogi BBQ trucks that introduced Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine to Los Angeles with innovations like short rib tacos and kimchi quesadillas. Taking advantage of twitter and Facebook to promote the truck, Kogi became a sensation within months of its launch in 2009. In 2010, he was named the "best new chef" by Food & Wine magazine—the first for a truck food in the award's twenty-two year history. Choi and his co-founders Mark and Caroline Shin Manguera have since expanded to five trucks and three restaurants (Chego!, A-Frame and Sunny Spot). Choi is credited with sparking a street food renaissance in LA and a wave of new fusion cuisine experiments.
Choi talked to The Hollywood Reporter about Spaghetti Junction. He called the book "an exploration more than a memoir" that will follow his story to up to the moment he opened Kogi. He says he's often asked how he came up with the idea for his Korean tacos but its not something he can answer in a few sentences because the idea really came out of his entire life experience, adding that over the course of his childhood his family lived in rich and poor neighborhoods and black, white, Korean, and Latino sections of the city. As a teenager, Choi was deep into the car culture of low riding (he had a tricked out '87 Chevy Blazer) popular with Latinos and that is where discovered his love for frijoles, carnitas, and tacos.
He describes Spaghetti Junction as "the journey of my immigrant life … that uses food to tell the story of Los Angeles." Choi took the title from the nickname for large highway interchanges, seeing the "tangled noodles" of the intersecting freeways as a metaphor for the ethnic exchange going on in the city. Choi once said his fusion tacos were his take on Los Angeles "in one bite," and now the book is the story of how his childhood produced the inspiration for that bite.
Choi is serious about the "riding shotgun" part of the title. He and co-author LA Weekly writer Tien Nguyen have set up a website (ridingshotgunla) for fans to follow the progress of the book.
He calls the chance to work with of Kitchen Confidential and Raw Meat author Bourdain a "dream," calling those books a model for reaching beyond the core foodie audience. "I really want this book to get out there beyond the food world. I want the food world to read it. … I want my homies to read it. I want people I used to hang out with--people I still hang out with--to read it."
Doe Coover of the Doe Coover Agency represented Choi for the book deal.