As part of the ALOUD series at the L.A. Central Library, two of the L.A. dining scene's most controversial and beloved figures got together on Wednesday evening to finally set the record straight about their respective unorthodox paths through the culinary world during a program titled “Taking the Kitchen to the Street: Experiments in Flavor and Form.” Roy Choi of Kogi, Chego, A-Frame and Sunny Spot, got to set the record straight on his supposed “conversion” to vegetarianism back in April, while chef Ludo Lefebvre opened up about the rampant speculation about the future of his pop-up LudoBites and his upcoming restaurant collaboration with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal. Los Angeles magazine dining editor Lesley Bargar Suter played host for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles event, which lasted just over two hours. We break down some of the highlights for you:
6. Roy Choi “broke a lot of laws” when opening Kogi.
Choi admitted that when he started Kogi BBQ in 2008, there was no prep kitchen aside from the truck, meaning that several of the more stringent health code regulations that applied at restaurants weren't possible to adhere to (these were the days before regulations for food trucks has been created). But the great thing about Los Angeles, Choi said, is, “If you break the rules but make something really good, you can always be forgiven later.”
5. Ludo's last stand in Vegas was epic.
Before leaving the fine dining world in 2008 to start LudoBites, the last restaurant that chef Ludo helmed was Lavo, in the Palazzo Hotel & Casino. Ludo explained that he had more than 50 chefs reporting to him and that the restaurant did a staggering 800 covers a night. That's pretty impressive, even for a ritzy casino restaurant. It was that job, however, that made Ludo “burned out” and helped him realize “that type of kitchen wasn't for him.”
4. Choi visits every one of his restaurants and trucks, at least once, every day.
In the age of over-$4-a-gallon gas, that's quite a level of dedication. From Venice to Palms, to wherever in the L.A./Orange counties the four Kogi trucks are stationed, Choi makes a trip to each one to check in. He said the worst days are when one truck is stationed in Pomona and another in Northridge. Yeesh, that's a commute we don't envy.
3. Ludo wants to open a kids restaurant.
You never know with a jokester like Ludo, but the chef seemed adamant that he wants to open a restaurant specifically tailored to children. He mentioned that cooking for his twins inspired him to create healthy and creative, kid-friendly recipes, something he found far more engaging that he previously thought.
2. Choi's meditation on vegetarianism was caused, in part, by 7-Eleven.
In regards to that April “vegan scare,” Choi admits that he had a “nervous breakdown” when he realized that too many people he grew up with were consuming huge amounts of fast food, processed meats and, specifically, “sliders from 7-Eleven”. We agree, those things are pretty gnarly.
1. Ludo is done with press — for now, at least.
Following several questionable reports on Zagat and Eater, Ludo expressed frustration with all the unconfirmed speculation on his new projects. After this discussion, he explained, he wasn't going to do any more interviews about his plans. Luckily, he set things straight for the audience: There will be one more LudoBites in Los Angeles, a sort of “Best of LudoBites” event that will precede the Jon/Vinny restaurant opening. After that, he hopes to take LudoBites international, mentioning that he imagines locations popping up anywhere from San Francisco to Mexico City.
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