When Talib Kweli asked chef Roy Choi (Kogi Truck, Netflix’s The Chef Show) what it takes to open a food truck, the food truck legend and mega-star chef didn’t miss a beat. He jumped right in with, “It’s really important, one, to respect your elders and the generation before you and really pay homage to the work that they did for the streets.”
In the case of Choi and his life in Los Angeles, that was the work of generations of Latinx folks working taco and burrito trucks across the city. Those “loncheras” — plus his heritage of Korean cooking — set the foundation upon which Choi was able to build his empire, Kogi.
Choi then moves on to what he considers the next most important note for opening a food truck: The importance of the first bite. “In a food truck, if that first bite ain’t hittin’ … that’s all you got,” he says. In short, there’s basically no room for error or forgiveness in the hyper-competitive food truck world, according to Choi. And if anyone on earth would know the ins-and-outs of making a food truck work (or fail), it’s him.
Chef Choi’s last bit of advice for Kweli, Jasmin Leigh and the audience of UPROXX’s People’s Party is probably the most pertinent and sobering for anyone thinking they can rock the food truck game like a champ. Choi takes his time on his third point before laying it down, “I believe … you don’t have to come from the streets … but, you have to love the streets.”
This, on the surface, seems obvious. But we have to ask — how many food trucks have failed simply because fledging chefs didn’t connect with the lifestyle of their chosen city’s streets? A fair few, for sure. As Choi puts it, “you gotta love everything about it: The smells, the sounds, the mothers and their kids, the gangsters, the workers, everyone.”
Chef Choi’s wise advice should probably be enshrined for all folks to ask themselves before pulling the trigger on a food truck of their own. Are you respecting the culture that food comes from and those who came before? Is your first bite going to make people’s eyelids peel back? And, maybe most importantly, do you love the streets and the people you’ll meet while serving food?
Gospel from a legend of the game. Check this segment at the `15:28 mark in the video above. And check out our picks for the Best Food Trucks in Every State.