Chef Roy Choi is having a busy 2019. The godfather of food trucks has not one but two new shows on TV. In Broken Bread on KCET, Choi travels across America talking with people on the frontlines of food as a social movement, political protest, and hard-fought livelihood. Over on Netflix, the iconic chef is keeping things much lighter — cooking with his pal, director and actor Jon Favreau, and a smattering of celebrities in the The Chef Show.
Both are essential viewing for much different reasons. Both have moments of pathos, learning, and surprising levity.
For years, Choi has been working hard to make food both accessible and executable for the average person (me and you!). In The Chef Show, he and Favreau bullshit, host friends, cook with stars, make mistakes, try again, and generally have a great time doing it all. The show isn’t afraid to be itself — that is, two really close friends going on a journey with a lot of great food and solid camaraderie and not a hell of a lot of structure. It’s a strange sort of alchemy, but it clearly works.
We caught up with Choi to talk about what The Chef Show means to him. We also ended up talking about the subtle nuances of a great bowl of fried rice and where he’d like to travel next with his dude Favreau. Let’s jump in!
Can you walk us through how you and Jon began cooking together and how that became the format for the show?
I think there really wasn’t any format. It was just ‘turn the camera on’ and see what we get. That’s really how it all developed. We just started cooking. Sometimes you don’t plan it out ahead of the time. Sometimes you just gotta jump in and do it, and that’s really how this whole show started.
We always cooked together and we wanted to pick it back up. It was just the right moment. Jon [Favreau] was doing a lot of stuff in Atlanta for Marvel and he’s like “why don’t you come out here and let me see if I just put a camera up and we go out and cook and meet with some of the cast and friends and let’s see if there’s anything there.” And that’s really how it all started. Then the more and more we filmed, the more and more we reached out to a strong caliber of guests.
How did it work with choosing the guests and how did you decide what to cook with each person?
We didn’t really have to do much. The recipe and idea were there. Each guest confirmed what we would cook and then it was just a natural conversation. Of course, the guests are extremely magnetic and in their own right. Then it just became kind of a jam session.