Roy Choi was the salutatorian of his graduating class at the Culinary institute of America. He also used to cop his beef jerky at liquor stores and whip up milkshakes for the homies at the crib. These experiences may seem slightly at odds with each other, but in the world of the Kogi BBQ truck co-founder, Los Angeles restauranteur (Chego, A-frame, Sunny Spot), and soon-to-be author (look out for Spaghetti Junction on Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint), the combination makes sense like parking meters and loose change.

For everyone else, here’s a cheat sheet.

When we asked to him to break down the dishes that have influenced his cooking style, he revealed an ability to look both high and low to find inspiration in food—as well as an uncanny knack for giving new flavors and styles his own inimitable spin.

Some selects are hardly surprising (if Korean barbecue wasn’t in there, something would feel wrong). But others come out of left field, and even Choi finds himself dumbfounded when he realizes that perhaps his entire culinary career can be traced back to an obsession with milkshakes.

From kimchi jigae to sloppy tamales from Tommy’s Hamburgers, here are the dishes that make Roy Choi the culinary voice of the streets.

As told to David Lee (@rekstizzy)