The theme to the recent MAD 3 Symposium
. Los Angeles chef and food truck pioneer Roy Choi spoke about the origins of his Kogi BBQ truck empire, and how it was a product, both directly and indirectly, of the poverty, crime, and hunger issues plaguing Los Angeles.
He talked about food deserts and how even in the land of beaches, movie stars and 365 days of sunshine, there lies a dark reality: “we have a hunger crisis in Los Angeles—straight up hunger crisis.” Citing poverty rates in South L.A.— 44 percent of children live in poverty, 17 percent in extreme poverty — Choi focused on the need to feed the less fortunate, along with the tweeting, Instagraming hordes. His definition of the guts theme? He challenged chefs to have the guts to open up restaurants in less economically desirable neighborhoods, to use their skills, knowledge and influence to aid those their restaurants typically don’t reach. "Aren't we still feeding the same people? The privileged? There's nothing wrong with the fact that we can afford it, but aren't we just feeding the people who can afford it?"
“"There are no chef-driven restaurants [in South Central]. Not one...the restaurants that do exist are fast food chains. They got the 'guts' to go in."What if every high-caliber chef, all of us in here, told our investors as we were building restaurants, that we leveraged it, for every restaurant we would build, every fancy restaurant that we build, it would be a requirement to build a restaurant in the hood too?,” he asked, telling his own tale of how he took the leap from serving foodies Korean tacos and Hawaiian style fusion food to collaborating with students at an underperforming South L.A. high school to open 3 Worlds Cafe, which serves coffee and fresh fruit smoothies. "It's not a restaurant with marcona almonds and sea urchin and the things that we're able to access. But it's a start" says Choi. He summed up "This is the premiere food symposium in the world. To quote you guys: 'Intended to invoke a sense of courage and urgency...Enabling this year's symposium to become a venue where we can reflect on the stories and ideas that no one usually gets the opportunity to tell.' So I stand here with the guts to ask you, please, let's do something. Let's do something and feed those that we're not reaching collectively." Watch the whole video for some Monday morning inspiration.