Roy Choi, the Giant Robot Food Guru

 
Roy Choi of Kogi, Locol, A-Frame, Chegg, and Pot

Roy Choi of Kogi, Locol, A-Frame, Chegg, and Pot

When I think about Roy Choi, it’s not his food or restaurants, (which includes Kogi, Chego, Pot, and A frame), it’s his cadence and candor. He could easily have a celebrity chef persona but remains far from it. Perhaps it’s his analogies or word choices. When he speaks, you can’t help but listen as you take in his infectious smile. It turns out we’re about the same age, yet I still look towards Roy as a sempai who transcends time. He’s perpetually cool and that’s unfakeable.

I’m proud to say that I was an early visitor to the Kogi Truck when they bombarded UCLA and Abbott Kinney street in Venice. I’ve interviewed him for Giant Robot Magazine long ago and it’s great to have him be part of Giant Robot Media. We’ll be catching up with Roy in different parts of LA on a regular basis. On this day, we catch Roy at Kogi Taqueria in Palms, LA.

Full audio interview with Roy Choi.

Interview with Roy Choi, the new Giant Robot Food Guru

 

by Eric Nakamura, Editor in Chief

Photo and Video by George Ko

GR: How do you pronounce it?

Roy Choi: Kogi Tah-que-ria

GR: Okay so I know a surfer dude. I think it was fury then and he called it a Takeria.

RC: It could be TaKorea. I think there's a place called TaKorea. But this Taqueria, this is designed after a lot of Taquerias I grew up going to. You know, just like real small spots. We usually have music bumping, you know just come in and eat a plate of tacos. That's what we're about.

GR: What's the difference between here and the truck because you're carrying the name, right so there must be something you're trying to mimic at least kind of capturing the spirit of?

RC: Yeah and you've been around the truck since its beginning here like we're very careful and not careful, careful is the wrong word. We’re very deliberate in who we are as Kogi like we’re wild beasts, but we're also very protective of who we are and our culture because just like Giant Robot like we represent something you know what I mean and so we didn't expand like crazy anything.

So anything we do build has to have the flavor and the style the Kogi. So I guess those things are like being a little imperfect being kind of like DIY, you know ground up you know like, plaster it with stickers. You know not really like being somewhere that's loose and kind of feels like the street and honors the street you know. So you've got this big mural right here, that is one of our actual trucks and the other thing is like everything just being kind of real, you know. These are shop lights from the garage, you know a whole team speaking about real as a team they’re the original Kogi team. So this was a big promotion for them like the original Kogi team was the first team that moved up into the Taqueria.

So it's just all those lineages you know it's like martial arts. You know it's just like the lineages of passing down and that's really what makes it real.

GR: I remember that dude from the truck. Yeah.

RC: Right?

GR: Yeah.

RC: That's Milton and that’s Francisco, that’s Nadine.

GR: I remember him.

RC: Yeah, Francisco. Yeah, he was a manager of the truck for a long time.

GR: Yeah, that’s so cool. So was it really pressure? Pressure maybe is the wrong word, too but you know if you're trying to make something that’s like a traditional Taqueria, are you including things that are from like the original Taqueria because I think I tried something I’m like, “I don’t think that’s on your truck?

RC: Yeah, that's what makes this Taqueria different. Exactly. I mean, you're so perceptive is the Carne Asada, Carnitas, Pollo Asada, Cebollita y Aguacate. Those are an homage to the Taquerias that I grew up eating at and then you have the Kogi on the other side, too. So you have the ability to mix and match you know, and have the Kogi experience and what we wanted to do with this place is make it so LA and so built around like Lonchera and taco, Taqueria culture that when you walk in, you wouldn't even know if it was Korean or Mexican or whatever. You’d just think it was a Taqueria and that's really what this place is about. So the stuff that you eat on that side, the Carnitas, the Carne Asada, I hope that when you eat it you will be as good as any Carne Asada or Carnitas you get anywhere throughout the city. And you know, I guess for me the biggest compliment would be like if someone walked in here, ate a plate of Carnitas tacos, knew nothing about the Kogi store, walked out and be like, “Damn, that was some good Carnitas, dude.” That's it, that's all I want.

 

And you know, I guess for me the biggest compliment would be like if someone walked in here, ate a plate of Carnitas tacos, knew nothing about the Kogi store, walked out and be like, “Damn, that was some good Carnitas, dude.” That's it, that's all I want.

GR: That’s awesome.

RC: You know because there's a lot of, this Boulevard right here, Overland and Palms, there's a lot of action in this area of West LA and we've got two schools right in this area and we got a lot of kids that come in after school.

GR: Tons of apartments.

RC: Yeah, tons of apartments, lots of college kids, a lot of you know, people working. And I just want it to be a spot where they can come and eat. We've got a lot of history in this area, too because we had Chego right up and you know.

GR: Yeah, Chego was right there. This used to be a hood what a while ago.

RC: Back in the day, yeah.

GR: This was a hood.

RC: Yeah.

GR: I mean, this is the—

RC: Especially these apartments right here, this whole area back here off of Motor and National.

GR: This is the park that allegedly Snoop Dogg was involved in a shooting.

RC: Yeah, it was this park right over here.

GR: Woodbine Park.

RC: Yeah, Woodbine Park. Yeah.

GR: That’s kind of crazy, right.

RC: Yeah, there's the whole West Side when people you know, speak of the West Side back in the day this is like all this right here.

GR: Yeah, I know I remember this was like, Palms was like dangerous.

RC: You could go anywhere, come on.

GR: Back in the day. I’m talking about back in the day it as like you know, careful. Yeah. Good. Awesome. So what are the challenges at this particular place that you’ve ran into compared to truck or a mobile location?

RC: We also have challenges with parking, you know because you know we’d blow up the parking spot a little bit so you know, it's a small plaza. We're on the corner here but it's got a lot of stores and this was a double decker and there's a very small parking lot so that's a challenge.

GR: Anything else with like mood or getting kind of like vibe down?

RC: I don't think so. I think that part was pretty cool because of the groundwork we laid with Kogi. You know what I mean like we built a lot of respect and a lot of connections out there on the streets. You know we're very, very lucky and in a fortunate situation where we don't have to like do any marketing or PR or like prove to people to get their business like we just literally opened up and put it on Twitter and you know, people instantly made the connection you know what I mean and so that part hasn't been a been an issue at all. Food wise, no. I mean, I wish I could give you some dirty shit but no, we’ve been doing good. We got a walk-in back there, we've got enough food, space where we can prep everything. We're very efficient in the way we do things, you know because I grew up in an immigrant you know, restaurant family just like yourself you know and like, we know how to like stack things to the ceiling and make space out of no space. You know it's a really small spot but we make it work and it's like living in a tiny house where you got to be creative with all the storage and stuff so we've been good.

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GR: I have a cousin. What is it a nephew? Anyway so my cousin married a Korean man.

RC: Okay.

GR: So their kid is half Japanese, half Korean and you know I'm not the guy that studies the words enough sometimes so I never knew what Kogi meant, right.

RC: Oh, yeah.

GR: So now I got this little kid that just wants "Kogi, Kogi, Kogi" and it’s like "you talking about the truck?" I hear that, and I was like, “Was that you? Did you do that, too or was that?” because like you know they would have like meat or like something else or fruit or something a little kid would just go, “Kogi!” and I was like whoa.

RC: Yeah, Koreans grew up especially like from about the 60s till now you know like a lot of Korean kids like maybe more 70s, but grew up with meat. But Korea is not a meat culture to be honest you know like, Japan. You know we're very small countries.

Yeah, Koreans grew up especially like from about the 60s till now you know like a lot of Korean kids like maybe more 70s, but grew up with meat. But Korea is not a meat culture to be honest you know like, Japan. You know we're very small countries.

Lots of mountains. Japan once surrounded by water. Korea surrounded by three bodies of water filled mountains.

GR: And a country…

RC: …and a country you can't get into so it’s never been a cattle-based country.

GR: Right.

RC:It was just in the later eras and like I'm not a historian but I believe it's like the 1800s or so was when meat really started to become you know, fashionable and part of the diet but before that, it's really a vegetarian food culture, a seafood-based culture. But then I guess it’s like drugs or anything like once you introduce something, right you know like then all the sudden it's just it takes over the whole ecosystem.

GR: That’s amazing.

RC: And that's really so now Korea is synonymous with being a meat culture when you know, for thousands of years it never was. But yeah, they go crazy over it. Crazy.

GR: I know, just seeing the little kids say that word and I’m like oh, the link between that word and your restaurant, you know your brand. When I heard that I was like wow, I’m thinking like where have I heard them say and that just like—

RC: If you mispronounce the g in Kogi, it means dick.

GR: Oh, really.

RC: Yeah.

GR: Oh, you mean?

RC: Penis.

GR: Chaji?

RC: No. Yeah, Chaji or Koji.

GR: Koji?

RC: Yeah.

GR: That’s like Japanese name of a dude I know.

RC: I know. No, no, no.

GR: It’s like a prominent Japanese name.

RC: It’s like Richard in America.

GR: So I look at your social media. You end up eating out a lot, it looks like from what I've seen but where do you go? Like in the last month, what kind of places have you been going to?

RC: I'm actually a creature of habit. I go out and eat at like, I work about 6 days a week so I'm usually eating on my own as spots If I do go out, I go to Korean food and Mozza and Jon & Vinny’s. It’s like where I go.

GR: Mozza?

RC: Yeah.

GR: Wow.

RC: Mozza is like I'm a creature of habit like Mozza is my spot, Jon & Vinny’s, anything at Jon & Vinny’s would do.

GR: What’s Jon & Vinny’s? I don’t even know.

RC: Jon & Vinny’s, they run Animal and Son of a Gun and all that and they've got a spot called Jon & Vinny’s.

GR: Which Korean place do you go to? Like there's too many choices.

RC: Han Bat Sul Lung Tang is the business, you know that's the kind of like murky beef stew.

GR: I like that.

RC: That you eat with Kkakdugi (radish kimchi).

GR: Salt?

RC: Salt, green onions and pepper.

GR: I like that.

RC: You know comes real basic like, people that don't know Sul Lung Tang, they come and they eat it and there's no seasoning in it. It’s like, “Dude, what?” So you got to season that stuff. What else? Where do I go? I like Chosun Galbi.

GR: That place is kind of clean.

RC: People try to hate on it because it's clean you know, but I really think their food is fantastic. Their service is incredible. I’ve been going there when they used to be in the other location, you know and they used to be on Western and I just really like their food.

GR: What do you get there?

RC: They have a braised seafood dish, braised Cod called Eun Dae Gu Jorim. It's like a spicy braised Cod, it’s delicious.

GR: Haemol Jungol?

RC:Haemol Jungol, their barbecue. Jungol is good. If you want Jungol, you got to go Chunju Han-il Kwan which is on 6th and like right across from Chapman plaza. It’s the corner. They have the best like the hot pot stews.

GR: I love that.

RC: I go everywhere, man but you know the thing about Korean food that people got to understand is that it's really a lot of Korean food is based around each place does kind of a specialty. So like when people say, “Oh, what's your favorite Korean restaurant?” It’s a very hard thing to answer because it's not a general answer, you know. Like here us as Americans sometimes like, we want to always generalize things especially when it comes to Asians. You know that dealing with it your whole life. Like they want to generalize something to say, “Okay, what's your favorite Japanese food?” But you'll be like they're fucking so many different regions, you know like what do you mean favorite you know like. So it’s the same thing with Korean like when you say that you have to just that's why I always say, what do you mean like you have to define like are you talking barbecue, are you talking hot rice, are you talking soups, are you talking noodles, you know it all depends you know.

GR: It's still underexplored in my opinion. Korean is still like underexplored by the masses, right.

RC:They’re still getting to like just the first crust and the first layer of things, you know.

GR: Yeah.

RC: There's still a lot of spots in Koreatown that you don't see people exploring into yet and I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, doesn't really matter. But there's still enough of Korea Town to where like it's still for Koreans, you know. Koreans and Latinos, you know.

GR: What do you get at Mozza?

RC: At Mozza?

GR: Mozza. What do you get there?

RC: Oh, man. Well, they have two spots you know. Osteria and the Pizzeria, you know and Nancy is an idol of mine you know. Ever since before I was a chef, I used to follow her around as far as like just look up to her and when I was just a street nerd out on the streets, you know just hanging out you know and just being young. Like I would go out of my way just privately like go and get bread from the La Brea. I didn't know I was going to become a chef; it was just like a sort of something that I was attracted to. But now what I get is that at the Pizzeria, I get the Squash Blossom Pizza, I get the Red Sauce Pizza that has no cheese, the meatballs are fantastic there. All of her Crostinis are fantastic. You know the caprese over there and then on the Osteria side, the Cacio e Pepe, I could eat a double order of that. They already know my orders so I come in and they're like, “Cacao e Pepe?”

GR: That’s awesome.

RC: Yeah.

GR: Cool. Do you make all that, too or is that like out of your range?

RC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I feel like I can make almost everything as long as I have a moment to look at it because I've been cooking so long that I can. Doesn't mean I'll be good at it, you know. It doesn't mean that you know that I'll be fronting and acting like I can beat someone with it, you know. But I feel like if I have enough time to just take whether it's a food from Russia or Ukraine or Sapporo, Japan or you know Chengdu, China, you know. I feel like if I have enough time to look at it and just like see where they're coming from on everything then I could figure it out.

GR: Cool.

RC: You know because I have enough cooking within me where I have the basic knowledge to instinctively make decisions on the food. And you know again, going back to like martial arts it's like when someone studies one form for so long and then they branch out into other forms. It's like even if you don't know that form, it's like this form allows you to be able to comprehend it and you know like experience that new form on a more advanced level. You can pick it up much quicker like the information just flows faster and that's what happens with me with cooking. I am afraid of cooking like Chinese food a little bit, you know and some Japanese stuff like I don't think like I could ever front and say like I’m going to do a sushi pop-up. You know what I mean because it’s like I respect the craft of those things, you know or I don't think I would say like I want to do like a Chinese royal banquet pop-up. You know what I mean? Because like I'm like trained in that and there's a lineage to that and it’s something like I don't feel like I have the skill level to but can I cook that food? Yeah, yeah.

GR: Cool. So are there any restaurants in LA that you’ve kind of checked out in the last month maybe or couple months maybe? You know, anything new that made you like damn, this is like cool, good or anything you want to add?

RC: I haven’t been to anything really new lately that’s blown my mind. I know the homie up at Salazar is getting a lot of love, you know. I ate Mexicali tacos for a long time you know.

GR: What’s that? What’s Salazar?

RC: Salazar is out in like Frogtown near like fletcher area. It's like that outdoor/indoor Sonoran-Mexican restaurant you know. They started with Mexicali tacos which is in Downtown so I would say that. I go to Smorgasburg you know, I got to give a shout out to Smorgasburg. I mean, they've been really good to local. You know my spot in Watts and they've been really good to us to allow us to go serve there and give us a platform to really reach a lot of people and then that on every Sunday which happens from like 10 to 4 PM every Sunday where the old American Apparel is, the warehouse. Like that thing exposes me to a lot of what a lot of the young cats are doing right now you know and that's really been it, you know so I would say Smorgasburg is where I'm really exposed to a lot of the young cats.

GR: I think you tweeted that.

RC:Yeah.

GR: It’s sad.

RC: You’ve never been? You've got to go over there.

GR: It’s cool. Awesome, man. How about like you go to any old spots? Like some of the places you mentioned you know they're relatively on the newer scale except Korean places, are those kind of—

RC: Yeah, Korean are the old spots for sure. What else old do I go to? I mean, Taylor Steakhouse is really nice in Korea Town if you want old spot. You know Han Bat Sul Lung Tang is an old spot for sure. That's a spot that really means a lot. El Taurino tacos you know and Koreatown is a big spot for Korean American kids that grew up. You know I still get King Taco from time to time you know.

GR: Which one?

RC: I’m going to be honest. The one in Boyle Heights, you know.

GR: Boyle Heights, okay. They’re not the same.

RC: Also, the one down on Washington and Alameda area.

GR: That’s the old one, right?

RC:Yeah.

GR: Yeah.

RC: And then also I go out to Boyle Heights a lot to get tacos. Mariscos Jalisco is great. Yeah, I eat everywhere. I don't I don't look at food. I want to say it this way like I don't look at food I guess like maybe it goes somewhere like I don't look at food the way like people who eat food look at food because I'm on the other side of the fence cooking the food, right. So it's like I don't really get excited and be like, “Oh my god, we’re going to go here today” you know like or “I've been waiting all week to go to here.” I'm just more like spontaneous with stuff so it's like I'm just cooking and working the whole time and if I get hungry you know, I'll just like whatever's near me I’ll end up going to and then if I’m ever making like a conscious choice, it’s usually a creature of habit and then I go back to the same spot.

I'm just more like spontaneous with stuff so it's like I'm just cooking and working the whole time and if I get hungry you know, I'll just like whatever's near me I’ll end up going to and then if I’m ever making like a conscious choice, it’s usually a creature of habit and then I go back to the same spot.

So it's usually by chance that I'll find a new spot. Like I'm a little bit of a hermit, too outside of work. So like it's work that allows me to get outside of my house so I've been trying to do things differently to allow me to be more social. So I've joined this like eating club you know. Yeah, we’re a bunch of street wear dudes, you know from like STussy Union, Undefeated, you know like Eddie from and all that and some record label dudes and stuff and just like all creative guys, you know. And we go out once a month or once every other month and we pick a restaurant and I go eat like a civilian, you know like I sit down and like order for the menu.

It's like all that stuff is really like foreign to me, man you know. I'm serious like, I don't know if that's how artists feel like going to a gallery or an art show or a museum or something. It’s like it’s really foreign to me. It's foreign in the sense that it's hard to experience it because you spend most of your life creating the experience, you know and then to put yourself in the experience you just feel like really weird so. You know this kind of eating group has allowed me to kind of break that fourth wall of it.

GR: Is that like a social thing more so where you don’t have to like you're not creating the food in your mind or are you always creating food in your mind when you taste it? Are you like—

RC: I think I'm always creating food in my mind.

GR: It’s like you can’t ever let that go. It just kind of just eat somewhere, oh it’s all right but whatever. You know. I had a good time, though.

RC: I mean, there's definitely a sonar that we have that if I choose to turn it off I can but it doesn't mean that the information is not processing. But yeah, there definitely is a sonar everywhere you go, you walk in and you just see everything you know. Even while I'm doing this interview, I'm looking to see if there are any flaws you know. It doesn't mean things have to be perfect, they can be imperfectly perfect you know but it's like do they match up with the brand, do they match up with like the level in which this place or my place or any place is like what are they really? You said what's the soul of this, how do you capture? What's the soul that they're trying to put out, you know? If it is fine dining and they are charging those prices, my sonar turns on to that you know. If it is a small little taco shop then my sonar turns on that so it's like you know. Yeah, it’s hard to turn it off, man. You know, it's really hard. I don't let in influence me but it's hard. If I wanted to let it influence me, man I could like a battle rap where I could just go from a to z and tear anything apart or give anything accolades. But usually, I try to go in and just enjoy a meal.

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GR: Cool.

RC: Yeah. But I haven't been blown away that much, you know. I guess it's because the brain kind of like interacts. Sometimes I just want to go in and just be like almost like at a show or something like, your jaw’s dropping and like you lose yourself for a minute. I haven't had that experience in a while.

GR: I’m going to check out in a month or something and see if you've got something like that.

RC: Okay, maybe that could be the next story. Yeah.

GR: That’s the idea. So non-food stuff you’ve been working on? Like anything non-food. Is there anything like that?

RC: I want to write another book but I don't know what yet. I just know that I've been having the itch lately to say something and things have been kind of bubbling out. I've been like you know, going ham a little bit on Twitter and Instagram and you know. So I know there's something out there that like wants to come out that I want to say. I feel like I mean I really think it sounds stupid but I’ve been thinking about writing this like self-help book a little bit you know. Not really like a self-help in the sense of like you know like infomercial level or anything but just like I've been through a lot of shit and I kind of figured some shit out. You know what I mean and like when I walk the streets and people, lot of young folks come up to me and they're just really like breakdown you know and they come to me and say like, “How did you do this like you really inspire me” and all these things. Initially for me, I put up like a defense and I'm like we’ll talk about dude, like calm down. And I'm sure a lot of people in like anime and manga and art world come up to you and say like, “Man, you're an inspiration!” Like, “Eric, I followed you your whole life, my whole life” and all this stuff. And so it's like what I'm trying to do is like why is that happening and peel away those layers and maybe there is something that I can say to help some people out there that are kind of like on the fence trying to figure things out. So I'm trying to figure that out right now, you know.

GR: Cool.

RC: Yeah. Almost like a little journal like this where like people can hold it with them and open it and be like in any situation. You know, just like read some weird shit for me and be like oh, okay cool you know.

GR: Awesome.

RC: So that's what I'm working on. What else am I working on? I’m trying to do some TV, you know. It's not like I haven't been offered this stuff and it's not like I don't want to do it, it's just I don't like doing whack shit you know so you know what I mean. So yeah, so it's like that's why I don't really haven't had one.

GR: Right. Yeah.

RC: And I'm not really like that overly of a vivacious dude, you know like I like doing stuff just like I'll do stuff that like I really feel or where homies will come up to me and I'd be honest. But I’m not going to do that like yell at the camera like this, you know. Or throw stuff at the camera or make a joke or like you know dance or anything. So I'm kind of real low-key and laid back so it's like a lot of those show producers you know want you to be a clown on the screen, right. You start yelling or start you know like doing—

GR: Bust out every bad word you know for—

RC: All that stuff, you know.

GR: At unreasonable times.

RC: Yeah and you know, they want—

GR: Sounds like we’re talking about one guy but—

RC:Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GR: I get amused sometimes.

RC: But you know, I'm kind of laid back, a little low-key so it's like in a way that doesn't come across good on camera sometimes, you know so. I’m just waiting for the right opportunity where I can just like, really do what I do on a daily basis on screen and share that with more people. Because the way I look at it is, it’s good enough for Los Angeles and Orange County, you know and I've been doing it now for over 9 years here on the streets like just taking care of people and Kogi is like stronger than ever. You know so like there's something there and so why can't I just transfer that to the screen and give it to a bigger audience. So I'm trying to find the right show for that.

GR: It can be there.

RC: Yeah, I think so. I'm confident.

GR: I don't know if there's—

RC: I'm losing weight right now trying to get it ready.

GR: There’s no rush for you.

RC: You’re going to do the editing.

GR: It was one time. I remember you did some web thing or something, right?

RC: Yeah, I did the CNN show.

GR: Right and then I saw you and I was like you lost like 70 pounds or something.

RC: Oh, that's where you saw me on Sawtelle when we’re doing Michelle Phan.

GR: I saw you and oh my god, you lost so much weight. It was wild.

RC: That was a time where I did lose a lot of weight.

GR: That was wild because you know you were like super skinny.

RC: Yeah.

GR: Kind of like—

RC: I was running at that time.

GR: Yeah.

RC: I was running a lot.

GR: You're like normal now.

RC: Yeah.

GR: This is your average weight. Yeah, you were like so skinny.

RC: I was skinny. I was kind of halfway healthy, halfway unhealthy skinny.

GR: Oh my god.

RC: I was running like I'm a very addictive person so when I get on something like, it could be a vice or could be a good thing. But when I get on something whether it's poker or drugs, alcohol, running, vegetarianism, food, anything, I'll go all the way down the rabbit hole with it. So at that time when you saw me, I was running like every single day, 7 days a week, every single day of the month for about a year and a half, about 4 miles a day.

GR: Wow. That’s a lot. You’re the inspiration, man.

RC: Yeah. The reason I stopped was I was at the point where I caught myself thinking about like buying running magazines and wearing tight shorts and stuff.

GR: Oh, oh.

RC: Yeah, yeah and then that's when I stopped. I got that far when I caught myself and it was almost like I caught myself in the spiritual mirror and I was like nah. And as easily as I get into something that's how I got out of it, you know and I gained all my weight back.

GR: Awesome. I think I’ve seen you heavier.

RC: I’ve been heavier.

GR: Yeah, yeah.

RC: I go up and down a lot. I could lose 20, I have like a bit of a De Niro complex. I could lose 20 to 30 in a month or I can gain 20 or 30 in one.

GR: Wow.

RC: Yeah. My whole life.

GR: Wow.

RC: Like if you look at some of my pictures growing up like, in some I’m real chubby Asian kid and then like the next year elementary school I'm like skinny dude, you know then I’m like middle dude. So I've had that issue my whole life.

GR: So you rep LA a lot. I don’t even know if you do it on purpose but it seems like you always rep LA somehow.

RC: Yeah.

GR: Is that a conscious thing or is that just because just how you are? Because you know, something like LA Dodgers had I’m like that’s so old school. I see more Latina wearing Dodgers—

RC: I think it’s something that I always—it was like my own private kind of comic book manga in a way and like it was something where you know, I was a very quiet kid growing up but I moved around a lot and I always had to kind of like figure out my way. So I was a latchkey kid when I was little all the way through elementary. My parents you know worked 2, 3 jobs; I was always on my own so I always figured things out. In high school, we moved to Orange County and they kind of hit reaction I was like kind of like in shock of the change.

So I kind of like snuck out the house a lot and went back to what I knew, you know and I mixed it with Orange County life as well but I got into low riding and I hung out wittier so I’ve always like been involved in street culture and life and you know. And I don’t know, it’s just something that I've always—I was never really the dude to like you know just be wild and out on the street and just be the one that you know like I wasn't getting all the girls. I wasn't like beating up all the dudes. I wasn't that dude, you know like I was quietly like just enjoying life you know in my head and just being out there. I don't know, man I was like an alley cat or a squirrel you know like I was always there but it wasn't something that I that I consciously represented. This is I've always been absorbed and around it and it's part of my DNA. And I guess when Kogi happened, it was finally my chance to grab the mike I guess, you know. It was my chance to spray a mural, you know and then what I ended up doing with my team is expressing it through food and through parking lots and you know, breaking the little few rules here and there and just being ourselves.

 

And I guess when Kogi happened, it was finally my chance to grab the mike I guess, you know. It was my chance to spray a mural, you know and then what I ended up doing with my team is expressing it through food and through parking lots and you know, breaking the little few rules here and there and just being ourselves.

I think it was a buildup of life. I guess that's my answer to you.

Do I rep it consciously? No, but I do it because it's my whole life that has finally had a moment to express itself, you know and none of it is fake, you know. The reason why I think Kogi speaks to so many people you know, across Los Angeles because when you say LA it’s like we're talking about when you say oh, what's your favorite green food? LA is more than one thing, right. It’s from the Valley all the way to West Covina.

GR: I always say Orange County, that’s LA, too in a way.

RC: That’s LA, too right so.

GR: To most people.

RC: And Kogi speaks to every single sector of it, you know and so I think the reason why it does is because my life was that way and then you know, this is kind of an expression of that as well.

GR: Because that book cover, I think you’re wearing a Dodgers hat in that.

RC: I am. I’m wearing a black Dodgers hat with the white.

GR: When I see that, I’m always thinking oh man, LA Dodgers. That’s everyone, right.

RC: Yeah.

GR: It’s everyone.

RC: It's everyone.

GR: You can not like them but I mean everybody knows what that is. It represents everything.

RC: Everything. And if you look at the stadium, it represents every part of LA, right you know.

GR: It’s weird it’s like more than basketball. I think it's still the Dodgers like that A the logo but just the whole idea of baseball like generations.

RC: I would say so.

GR: Like my dad’s 80 something years old loves the Dodgers. I’m like I don’t think anybody cares about the Lakers as much as the Dodgers, you know.

RC: Yeah.

GR: And there's something about like immigrants, too they like baseball more than basketball or hockey, right. Yeah, so when I see that I'm always thinking man, you're representing all, everything, all ages, all cultures.

RC: I do. I guess—

GR: Inadvertently but you know.

RC: Yeah but I guess the only part where I'm really conscious about it is when people just to try to like hate on LA then I'll stand up for sure. Always. I'm like Oversight Committee and like I’m out there. I’m really, really looking at a lot of things all the time you know and when I see anyone try to like hate on LA or come here and try to flex you know, I’ll always stand up for LA and the inverse of that is whenever I express myself, I always try to express myself thinking about everyone in LA like if I’m outside of the country or from outside of LA.

 

Always. I'm like Oversight Committee and like I’m out there. I’m really, really looking at a lot of things all the time you know and when I see anyone try to like hate on LA or come here and try to flex you know, I’ll always stand up for LA and the inverse of that is whenever I express myself, I always try to express myself thinking about everyone in LA like if I’m outside of the country or from outside of LA.

So I guess those are the points where it becomes conscious. The other times it's just you know, osmosis.

GR: Awesome. Cool, man. I think we’re good.

 



Kogi Taqueria

Visit at kogibbq.com/taqueria

Address: 3500 Overland Avenue #100, Los Angeles, CA 90034

(It gets packed quickly, so you might wanna head there early.)

The music in the audio interview is Beethoven's F Major Sonata, Op. 54, II. Allegreto- Piu Allegro

Played by George Ko, CEO of Giant Robot Media