While most of the chefs on this list built their reputations on their brick-and-mortar establishments, Roy Choi is a unique case in that you don’t need to make reservations to feast on his creations; if you’re lucky enough, they’ll come to you. His gourmet Korean taco truck Kogi took its first ride in 2008, first on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice before taking Los Angeles (and the U.S.) by storm.
Named one of the top 10 “Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine magazine in 2010 (the first food truck operator to earn a place on that list), Roy has capitalized on his success by bringing his unique take on Mexican and Korean cuisine to the masses.
When he’s not rolling around in his Kogi truck, Roy has served as the technical advisor to Jon Favreau on the movie “Chef” and volunteers at South Central’s A Place Called Home, where he teaches underprivileged students how to cook. Roy has also published a part-memoir, part-cookbook called “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food,” blending his memories as a child growing up in Los Angeles in the 1970s with the dishes that have allowed him to give back so much to his community.
Specialties & Resources
The father of the food truck movement, Roy’s guiding principle has been to create “food that isn’t fancy,” but don’t let that motto fool you: his food is as much a delight as any of the more complex dishes created by the other chefs on this list.
Aside from Kogi, Roy also runs two Los Angeles-based restaurants: Chego!, which features Mexican-inspired rice bowls, and Sunny Spot, a Caribbean-inspired restaurant located in a former IHOP building that incorporates Hawaiian culture and tradition. Roy’s cooking style blends Mexican and Korean flavors and dishes, embracing two of Los Angeles’ biggest immigrant cultures and combining them into one well-rounded and delicious fusion. Evidence of this is best demonstrated by Kogi’s menu, which includes tofu tacos, spam sliders, kimchee quesadillas and short rib burritos.
At Chego!, Roy is able to expand his offerings beyond what you can eat standing up. Items include the piña krackalada (sweet coconut rice with caramelized pineapple and puffed rice), chicken adobo (wok-seared chicken with rice, vinegar, garlic soy sauce, grilled onions, chiles and pinoy-love), and the Pacman bowl (wok-seared chicken, double-caramelized short rib and spicy pork with rice, cheddar and jack cheeses, mayo, fresh herbs and chiles).