Earlier this fall, CNN held a luncheon at Roy Choi's Koreatown eatery POT to unveil the network's new interactive series Street Food with Roy Choi. On the show, Choi meets up with influencers and trendsetters on the streets of LA, including YouTube star Michelle Phan, filmmaker Jon Favreau (whose movie "Chef" included Choi as a consultant) and DJ Tokimonsta. Superstar chef Anthony Bourdain, who executive produces "Street Food" with Choi, also appears.
At the CNN event, I asked Bourdain and Choi to reflect on what they think are the biggest misconceptions and stereotypes that persist about L.A. Here's what they had to say:
Bourdain: That it's Hollywood. Roy said the single most informative thing anyone has ever said to me about LA, and it totally changed my perspective. I was wondering why LA doesn't have the fine dining scene that New York has, as many Michelin restaurants and French guides.
I asked, "Are you not paying chefs enough, what is it?" And he said, "Look, the culinary spine of New York is European. That's not true here at all. The whole cultural culinary spine of LA has always been Asian and Latino." It's also LA's greatest strength. What I want to do when I come out here is eat Mexican and Central American food. I go to K-town. I just want wallow in delicious Korean food as long as I can because we don't have it as strong [in New York].
One of the satisfying things of shooting a show here is we thought it might be a challenge to do a show in LA that never shows the Hollywood sign. We didn't want to show any white people at all. We wanted to shoot an entire episode and never leave Koreatown. I've barely scratched the surface. Jesus, can you imagine Jonathan Gold's Rolodex? How long it would take to go through all of those restaurants? That is endlessly fascinating to me.
Choi: I'm from here, and I have a little bit of a guard dog's watch on this city when people talk shit about it. I try to really make people feel our city. Sometimes it's not through words. A lot of times the residents of our city don't have the chance to fight back because English is not their first language. What I try to do as a bridge is represent the people of this city and the strength of our city. Through that I am able to find a flavor that once people taste it, it changes their lives.
That's how LA is. A lot of people find a new life for themselves in LA. We have a lot of New Yorkers on this show, looking at how they came here and never left. There are a lot of misconceptions about this city because it's so new and there's a lot of flashy things, that it's all paper thin. But we're not what you want us to be. Why people can't get us is they try to fit us into something that relates to something else. This is fresh out here.
Bourdain: But you are really shitty drivers out here. That part is true.
Choi: You're always fascinated by the left turns out here.
Bourdain: Merge, people, just merge. It's not that hard, just decide who's going first! I'm obsessed with the cliches though to. I'm obsessed with old Hollywood. Right now I have a mania for the Garden of Allah, this long gone hotel on Sunset. I have historical obsessions here that I'm looking to incorporate into my show somehow.
It was a great conversation... but the reason to visit POT is the food, of course! Here's a sampling of what we ate that day:
Kush Salad (Asian greens, radish, fruit, pine nut mustard dressing); Kat Man Doo (steamed dumplings); Potato Pancakes; BBQ Veggies; BBQ Spicy Pork; Kimchi Fried Rice; Old School Hot Pot (marinated rib eye bulgogi, noodles, kimchi, scallion, sesame); Cabbage Hot Pot (soy bean paste, veggies, tofu, squash, potatoes)