20 Most Influential: Roy Choi, Kogi Korean BBQ

Roy Choi has become the face of the food truck revolution.

Photo by Eric Shin

Roy Choi
Chef,
Kogi Korean BBQ,
Los Angeles

The birth of the Kogi Korean BBQ food truck has become the stuff of culinary legend. When the Los Angeles-based fusion food truck made its debut in 2008 it harnessed the perfect storm of culinary know-how and emergence of social media to turn food trucks into a nationwide phenomenon. Roy Choi has been the face of the food truck revolution.

“The best thing about it is he took something that was traditionally known as a ‘roach coach’ and turned it into something more high end,” says Dave Eichstaedt, director of retail dining at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

That idea of offering high-quality, flavorful food at a low price point is something that has definitely been taken to heart in non-commercial markets. It can be seen in street food-inspired concepts in B&I accounts and schools and most directly in food trucks on college campuses from California to Rhode Island. At UMass, Eichstaedt manages the BabyBerk food truck, which he admits owes a lot to Choi’s influence.

“I met [Choi] at a conference and I think the biggest thing I learned from him was that [food trucks] are about more than just good food,” Eichstaedt says. “Good food is a part of it, but there is also a culture that goes with [operating a truck].”

Trendy flavors and a streamlined business model could only take Choi so far. It was his company’s mastery of social media to market its efforts that made the truck aspire to something greater. Thanks to the power and reach of Twitter, the Kogi truck has been called “America’s First Viral Restaurant.

” Sending out tweets of its location allowed customers to descend to the truck en masse, creating that party atmosphere that Eichstaedt says Choi felt was so important.  


Foodservice Director has undertaken a bold initiative by identifying people who we believe are having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice. Our list may surprise you and should certainly intrigue you. Our honorees have backgrounds as varied as their personalities. They range from the father of the modern-day food truck to the wife of a sitting president. They include operators and suppliers, chefs and consultants, CEOs and civil servants. There are traditionalists and there are mavericks. Well-known names share space with hot newcomers. In all, 17 people, two groups of individuals and one institution compose the list. It’s time to meet FSD’s 20 Most Influential.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

Ideas and Innovation
man ideas

We invited chefs from a variety of universities to our campus to showcase their favorite dishes for the students. Not only can college operators learn from each other, but it’s also a great way to showcase to our students what top campus dining is all about.

FSD Resources