Most people know Tony Chen for his restaurant-reviewing, chef and critic-stalking food blog SinoSoul (“Sino” is the Latin prefix for “Chinese”). His most recent project, Eating Valley Boulevard, is suspiciously reminiscent of Jonathan Gold's goal back in the '80s, to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard from downtown to the ocean. We asked Chen about his new blog, his take on food blog ethics, and his personal definition of east and west Los Angeles. Believe it or not, this Angeleno is anti-burrito.
Squid Ink: How long have you been blogging about food?
Tony Chen: One year exactly. I previously stalked Chicago's “culinary chat” site:
LTHforum, interjected by periods of mental lapse on Yelp.
SI: What's your real job?
TC: I'm a customs broker, collecting duty for Uncle Sam.
SI: What's your favorite little-known food blog?
TC: Infinite Fress! He's like my brother from another mother, except 300 percent wittier & sharper.
SI: Favorite bar?
TC: Cube's cheese bar. I refuse to fall for the trickery that is mixology.
A $15 pisco sour, or feed one for days in San Gabriel Valley? Simple choice.
SI: Are you from LA? If not, where?
TC: Taipei born, LA suburbia raised. Years spent in Flushing, Chicago, Ann Arbor.
SI: What is the hardest part about food blogging?
SI: Where do you get most of your ideas for posts?
TC: Usually on the toilet, in the shower, or on the motorcycle.
SI: What is your code of ethics for food blogging?
TC: Don't believe in it. The “FBCoE” is crotchety, sorry. I pay for the
right to describe the food the way I wish after chowing down. Tho,
minimally, the readership deserves to know you guzzled $100 worth of
free booze, but really didn't like the gratis KBBQ. Also, not tipping
after comped meal? Immoral.
SI: Who are you most inspired by?
TC: Wordsmiths such as Ruhlman, and mostly recently, by Achatz's book
proposal. The dude cooks with half a tongue.
SI: What inspired Eating Valley Boulevard?
TC: A fellow foodiot, The Pigmon, always told me codification is needed,
no matter if anyone's actually reading. After my last NYC trip &
observing what Scott's Pizza Tours is doing for that scene, Eating
Valley Boulevard was registered. Of course, Our Hero Mr. Gold's stroll
down Pico continues to spurs us onward.
SI: How do you define the east and west boundaries of the city? What do you consider East LA? West LA? Do you consider yourself more of an Eastsider or a Westsider?
TC: I am an Eastsider for sure, but mostly because I'm not fiscally well endowed. Western Avenue is my dividing line. Chef Stefan Richter recently implied, in an interview, there's nothing “past the 405”. That's good enough of a reason to never dine at his restaurant.
SI: What food do you detest?
TC: Filipino and Polish.
SI: What food can you not live without?
TC: Steamed white rice, even though I dislike eating it.
SI: What's your most memorable eating or drinking experience?
TC: Four-hour solo meal at Blue Hill Stone Barns, capped by meeting Dan Barber. It was transformational. And no, I didn't Tweet it– no cell signal up in Pocantico Hills.
SI: What do you think defines an LA burrito?
TC: To quote “Weezer Monkey”: “LA's burrito is a taco”. I'm no friend of the burrito. Last burrito I had was from a taqueria with a hidden speakeasy in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, over 2 years ago.