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

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

Ideas and Innovation
hibachi grill cooking

We saw in 2016 that many operators were trying to have some type of display cooking in their food operation. We installed a hibachi grill this fall, and within three months we had 300 residents and guests make reservations. We also use our hibachi grill for cooking classes twice a month, where our hibachi chef Abby Kramer does an excellent job teaching different cuisines. We have received so many compliments that we have decided to get another hibachi grill for a different dining venue in 2017.

Menu Development
jackfruit

It emerged as a top food trend on Pinterest’s 2017 predictions, is “the latest miracle food” according to Epicurious, and was called “a nutritional bonanza” by NPR. Jackfruit is the latest superfood garnering buzz, and Even Stevens Sandwiches has gone after the vegetarian-friendly option for a recently launched torta. Here, Culinary Director Brandon Price shares three lessons learned from adding jackfruit to the menu.

Finding the best form

Using fresh jackfruit wasn’t the answer for the chain. It has to be sourced internationally, and breaking it down cuts into labor costs. But...

FSD Resources