If Roy Choi wasn’t so cool we’d probably kind of hate him. It’s like he’s in some special two-person contest with James Franco to see which overachieving stoner can have the biggest impact on the most industries. Let’s ignore his recent forays into apparel and his schemes to shake up the hotel business for moment, and just concentrate on how he’s changed the landscape of his home turf: food.
The Kogi food truck was one of the first businesses in the food and drink space to successfully use social media as its primary marketing tool. Now everyone from your local supermarket to KFC has a Twitter presence, but only a few achieve the kind of traction @kogibbq has (22.6k tweets and 130k followers, and counting). Twitter is a perfect way for a food truck to advertise its whereabouts because it provides real-time information that followers can access anywhere. But Kogi’s Twitter feed also has Choi’s voice behind it, which has been critical to his own organic brand-building in his own post-Kogi pursuits as well. No matter how much teenage slang a corporate social media expert employs, there is simply no way to invent personality where there is none.
2. Fast food
We know that fast food is bad for us, but the truth is, it’s delicious and cheap. Trust two chefs to come up a solution to the country’s health crisis that doesn’t eliminate fast food from our diets, but rather makes the fast food better. Now that Choi and Daniel Patterson have secured a location for Loco’l in San Francisco, it’s all systems go for a healthy fast food joint that’s priced to compete. “As far as the price goes, we want to be McDonald’s. We want to be Carl’s Jr,” Choi told FWF in a September interview. “We just want to be that, but with a whole new ethos and philosophy.”
He also wrote a book last year, NBD. (Photo: Riding Shotgun LA)
As an activist, Choi is in the habit of coming up with paradigm-shifting ideas and enacting them at a grassroots level—like helping to bring smoothies to the inner city. The 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles is operated by local high school students, and like Loco’l, it provides healthy food to an urban community—this time in the form of fresh fruit drinks. When the co-venture opened in 2013, Choi gave a typically hyperbolic and enthusiastic statement to LA Weekly: “Good flavor knows no bounds and this is just a small step to putting cafes and restaurants in the inner cities and growth for all.” Oh Captain, my Captain.
4. Airport food
Everyone knows that airplane and airport food sucks. But only Roy Choi decides to open an actual food truck at LAX. What can we say, the man takes care of business.
Okay, things are about to get meta. According to Yahoo!, filmmaker Jon Favreau is thinking of opening a restaurant with Choi based on the movie Chef. Choi was a consultant and producer on the 2014 film, which tells the story of a chef who leaves the world of high-end restaurants and launches a food truck. In case you’re unaware, Choi worked at three-Michelin star Le Bernardin before he started Kogi, so if this happens he’ll have inspired the film that inspired his next restaurant. The guy is such an influencer that he’s now influencing himself via popular culture. That’s a mic-drop worthy move if ever there was one.