At his party to celebrate the launch of his new Williams Sonoma sauces with friends, chef Roy Choi welcomes guests with a hug or a handshake, then introduces the meal in his typical humble manner. “We worked hard on the flavors, so this meal was easy — it was literally just pouring a sauce or sprinkling some seasoning,” he says.
As he puts the finishing touches on the dinner, guests serve up cocktails and Choi offers anyone standing around a taste of what he’s cooking – a spoonful of the braising liquid or a small slice of the steak. But, Choi knows the ingredients of a successful dinner party are only partially what’s on the table—a good guest list is key. “The people here are all friends of mine and all super creative people who I love being around,” says Choi. “I’m inspired by all of them.”
Meet the guests who got the first taste of Choi’s collection.
Invite Schreyer to your dinner party and, inevitably, he’ll come prepared with a playlist. The French-born DJ and music producer hosts a Friday night show on indie station KCRW that focuses on his global, eclectic music taste. Schreyer met Choi when the two collaborated with Jon Favreau for his 2014 film Chef—Choi as the culinary expert and Schreyer on the soundtrack.
The playlist he brings to Choi’s party is a mix of Afrobeat, jazz and soul music, all favorite new releases from 2017. “I wanted something that was mellow, sexy and sophisticated,” says Schreyer. “Music you can really have dinner to.”
Creative & Business Partner
Ask Choi about the key to his most successful ventures over the year and there’s one common thread that comes up—Natasha Phan. The two began working together shortly after Kogi, Choi’s Korean taco food truck, was launched and have nearly a decade of creative partnership behind them. At the party, Phan is equal parts co-host and mixologist, always ensuring that each guest has a full plate and a full glass.
Choi often describes the unexpected flavor combinations in his own food as being “inspired by the streets of Los Angeles,” and Jensen could say the same about his work. The photographer captures candid street scenes and urban landscapes in some of the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles and San Francisco. “He goes to areas where 99% of people with a camera won’t go,” says Choi. “He’ll go into the depths of the Tenderloin in the middle of the night and capture photos.” Jensen’s upcoming book “Barbary Coast Now” shows an untamed and lesser seen side of the city through his compelling black and white photos.
LocoL Catering & Events Manager
“I met Roy two years ago when I was living in Atlanta and he told me about LocoL, the restaurant he was going to open in LA,” says Terry. The mission-driven work of LocoL, a fast food restaurant in Watts dedicated to healthy, delicious and affordable food, spoke to Terry and shortly after meeting Choi he made his way to Los Angeles to help open the first LocoL location. “On our first day people lined up at 6am,” he remembers. “We served everyone nonstop and no one complained. It made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than I’d ever know.” Terry has been a part of the LocoL movement ever since, and when LocoL was named restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s Restaurant of the Year last year “it was a goosebump moment,” says Terry. “People become a part of the family. Kogi, Locl, whatever it is, Roy makes us all family.”
Tattoo Artist @hektattoo
Valdez, a Huntington Beach-based tattoo artist, is the man behind one of Roy Choi’s earliest tattoos— a spring onion on his forearm that Valdez inked about seven years ago. “I met Hek in the Kogi line,” remembers Choi, who parked his Kogi taco truck outside Valdez’s shop, The Tattoo Gallery when the truck was in its early stages. “Ever since then I’ve being seeing him for most of my tattoos and, beyond being my tattoo artist he’s just become a really good friend,” says Choi.
Tattoo artists and chefs have a lot in common, explains OBlaney, also known as Charlie Coffin, a tattoo artist whose neck, arms and face are covered in striking graphic ink. “We’re both in the zone for hours,” explains OBlaney “and we have to be fully committed and be able to lose ourselves in your work.” OBlaney works at The Tattoo Gallery in Huntington Beach along with Hector Valdez, who was once his apprentice, frequents Choi’s restaurant A-Frame. “I love his food because I know what to expect,” says OBlaney. “It’s gonna taste good and it’s gonna make you feel good.”
For Weissman and Choi it’s all about the family connection. “Her mother is my shaman,” says Choi, and Weissman, a graphic designer, artist and illustrator, created the logo and packaging labels for Mommy Sauce, a line of authentic Korean sauces created by Choi’s mother. Weissman also designed the illustrated mission statement for Choi’s LocoL restaurant, which includes assertions such as “we listen” and “we communicate” and, of course “we are family.”
Marketing & PR Manager, Eat at Pot
Choi always has a handful of different projects going on at any given time. “You can be pulled in so many directions,” says Choi, which is why he created what he calls “the buoy system.” “Sometimes you’re swimming in the ocean and you think you’re in the same place you started but you’re not because the currents have pulled you some place totally new.” Figueroa, who works on Choi’s Eat at Pot project at The LINE LA hotel, “is someone who fights for the buoy,” says Choi. “She’s a fierce ball of energy and she’s trustworthy—you need people like that on your team.”
Choi’s music influences run deep and he often talks about his cooking in musical terms. “I’m kind of like a DJ who knows how to get the crowd to move,” he says of his improvisational style in the kitchen. “I have to know exactly what the environment needs in that moment and respond to that.” So, it’s no surprise that he has included Manno, aka DJ Zo, in his work family. Manno deejayed the opening of LocoL and both anniversary parties, and now he’s the Resident DJ at The Line, where he spins twice a month. “He’s a super talented homie and he knows how to move a party,” says Choi of Manno. The respect goes both ways: “Roy serves the absolute best version of everything,” says Manno.