Street-wise, honest in its admission of trials and punctuated with vernacular swagger, Choi’s debut pays tribute to family and his enduring fascination with the melting pot of Los Angeles.
Named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2010, the author is the co-founder and co-owner of Kogi BBQ, Chego! and other restaurants. With co-writers Nguyen and Phan, Choi recounts key moments during his childhood and teenage years as the son of Korean immigrants who ran the Silver Garden restaurant and whose path from apartments in Koreatown to a mansion in Mission Viejo was marked by turmoil and adventuresome forays in the jewelry trade. Choi’s experiences of love, success, failure, duty and the culture shock of upward mobility during the 1980s set the stage for drug experimentation and gambling addiction. Later chapters detail the sudden realization that led him to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, his apprenticeship and his rise in the restaurant industry. Choi presents the impressive turnaround with gratitude and panache, which balance an otherwise casual tone rife with expletives. Dozens of recipes range from indulgent cheap eats, such as instant ramen with sliced cheese, to more complex fare, including duck breast and beef medallions. From deli-style pecan pie to eggplant curry, kimchi jjigae to carne asada, Choi’s eclectic selections are not intended to showcase his finest repertoire; they represent tried-and-true comfort foods that have sustained him at varying stages during his life. Using memory as a guide, this highly personal tour of LA and New York reveals pockets of ingenuity in vibrant, sometimes-rough neighborhoods.
A bold account of how a professionally trained chef found his calling in the return to simpler, homestyle cooking that bridges cultures and appeals to everyday customers.