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
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.

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