Sunday, April 17, 2016

LocoL, Revolutionary Fast Food - Video, Part 1

Los Angeles Chef Roy Choi wears his heart on his spatula. This time he combines forces with, San Franciscan and Michelin Star awarded restaurateur, Chef Daniel Patterson to bring healthier fast food to the hood - that is, on 103rd Street in Watts, South Los Angeles. This eatery is their culinary love child. They call it LocoL, "Revolutionary Fast Food." The name of the joint is a play on loco and local - you gotta be a little crazy to try and change the fast food industrial complex.

I've been a food fan of Chef Roy Choi from day one. His cooking skillz jump-started the food truck craze in Los Angeles (and the country) when he combined Korean and Mexican flavors on the humble corn tortilla, and hit the street in a roach coach in need of a tune-up. The Kogi BBQ Lunch Truck is as popular as it ever was and will probably outlast all the food truck wannbes that have followed.

Just check out all the delicious details in my video below, that I made just a few months after the Kogi Truck debuted in 2008. And click here to see all my yummy photos and text.

Chef Roy knows LA by heart, after all he's been all over town in his fleet of Kogi Trucks. But have he and partner in taste Chef Daniel Patterson bitten off more than they can chew? By starting a fast food revolution in the underserved neighborhood of Watts, in South LA, they are rolling the dice -- but I would not bet against Chef Roy Choi.

Watts is a 2 mile square area near the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways (about 8 miles South of Downtown LA.) Half a mile away from LocoL is Watts most well know landmark, the historical designated Watts Towers build by an Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato Rodia and completed in 1954. It's a wild series of metal rebar structures that stand over 100 feet tall, and are covered in pieces of colorful tile and broken bottles.

 Watts Towers and 99 Cent Chef with Fried Chicken Burg

The area has been trying to live down the notorious 1965 Watts Riots, too. While not in the best shape economically and plagued with a gang problem, Watts has potential to do better, with a little help from entrepreneurs like Chefs Roy and Daniel, who really give a damn. And most importantly they are creating jobs for the locals.

Chef Daniel Patterson main focus is on the food at LocoL. The tricky part is keeping the prices in the $1-$6 range, and making each bite or sip flavorful and satisfying. As an example, ingredients like chicken and beef are cut with grains, without sacrificing flavor. LocaL even developed it's own fermented bun, partially made with lighter rice flour, by renowned San Francisco baker Chad Robertson of Tartine.

(Chef Daniel also has returned to the street offering free classes with his nonprofit The Cooking Project, which teaches young people how to cook. Click here to read all about it.) 

Their bromance began in 2013 when Chef Roy riffed on the theme of "guts" during a speech in Copenhagen, Denmark for the food-themed MAD Symposium. He challenged the international audience of influential and high-end food purveyors, and chefs, to bring healthy affordable food to the hood. Chef Daniel Patterson saw the light and joined Chef Roy Choi on his mission. Now, these guys have real guts. You can check out Chef Roy's rap by clicking here and scrolling to the video at the end of that post.

For my latest video below, it's back to street photography. I've done my share of it, keeping my feet on the pavement moving and with an eye on the action. I recorded the scene at LocoL as a bystander - no backstage pass.

First off I wanted to show some of the neighborhood and the locals who showed up, along with the LA foodie fans of Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson. It's an impressionistic view that I think you will enjoy. So scroll on to see my GIFs, photos, slideshows and video.
Night & Day

 LocoL opened in January (on Martin Luther King Day) and I had to be there on day one. It was a crazy fun scene. I parked down the street in front of the 700 unit Jordon Downs Housing Project and trekked there with my tripod and a couple of cameras. The line of customers went around the building and down the block. The street scene was a party, with music blaring from the LocoL back patio, providing a soundtrack for those in line.

Throwing a Watts sign.

A lot of the Watts neighborhood turned out: tykes on scooters, teens, old folks in motorized wheelchairs, and cruisers slowly driving by to take in the scene. The energy of that day was infectious and I tried to catch a little lightening in my cameras.
Photo Slideshow
They had the requisite speechifying by Mayor Gil Garcetti, and the roped off patio filled with movie glitterati, like Lena Dunham,  Jim Brown (action star of the movie The Dirty Dozen,) director/actor Jon Favreau, plus a bunch of chefs and LA culinary bloggers. But the food got top billing that day. Just check out my video below to take in the scene of Grand Opening Day at LocoL.

LocoL Restaurant Opening Day - Video

Play it here. Video runs 5 minutes.

I returned in the evening just before closing time, when the line was shorter. Once inside, while I waited for my order (which wa ready quicker than you think it would normally be, for such a jam-packed scene,) I watched Chef Roy work the room.

He goes from the front counter calling out ready order-numbers on the loudspeaker, to grabbing someones receipt to follow through. Wearing his ever-present baseball cap and t-shirt, Chef Roy greeted customers and posed for selfies, then tweets on his Iphone while bobbing to a soundtrack of old-school hip hop and classic Prince.

Chef Roy went behind the counter to finesse the cooking - showing the cooks how to grill and press the dressed Cheeseburg until it resembles a Panini or Cuban Sandwich. And when the ordering line slows down he reminds the crew to replenish ingredients and prep their work stations. This is a well organized and smooth operation, under skilled guidance.

The lay of the place is practical and playful. When you enter, go to a counter just to the left to order and pay for food. Or, you can place and pay for your order at a touchscreen computer workstation on either side of the entrance.

Grab a spot on any of the oversized building blocks that serve as chairs and tables and listen for your order number while jamming out to piped-in thumping tunes. You can also hang out in the patio out back.

Let's get down to the food. I could write a lot more words, but will save more detailed descriptions for future blog posts and videos, so do check back. Put simply, this joint is loaded with flavor, from $1 fresh juice Agua Frescas and Messy Greens, to $4 Beef (with grains) Cheeseburg and Fried Chicken Burg, to Brekkie (breakfast) $4 Egg in the Hole and $6 Noddleman Bowls.

Food Slideshow

As you can see by some of the entree names Chefs Roy and Daniel are punsters at play. Burgers are "burgs," chicken and veggie nuggets are "nugs,"  and a quesadilla is a "foldie."  If you are on the social media treadmill then follow Chef Roy Choi on Twitter, to see his pun-play in action.

Click on any image to see larger.

There is a cool comic book design sensibility here, just check out the cartoon cuisine characters on the menu and  restaurant walls.

So do check back soon, when I take a bite out of the menu and give you all the juicy details, including a couple of Cheap$kate Dining Review videos of the Fried Chicken Burg with coleslaw, and the Cheeseburg with Jack cheese and scallion relish.

And 99 thanks to Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, LocoL cooks and work staff, visiting patrons, and the neighborhood of Watts. And click here to see my video on youtube.

1950 E. 103rd Street
Watts, Ca. 90002

Chefs signing LocoL t-shirt.


Unknown said...

Good to see an update on Roy Choy. Still nothing similar in Austin.

Unknown said...

Tips : I've always believed the two best anti-poverty programs are work and marriage.
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