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Roy Choi          

Co-Host of "The Chef Show;" Chef & Co-Founder of Kogi BBQ; Best-Selling Author

Roy Choi is a tastemaker, chef, and disruptor. Choi and a crew of friends & family started what would be the beginning of the intersection between food, technology, culture, entrepreneurship, and long lines. That comet was called Kogi BBQ and it made a splash on the streets of LA, being the first to use Twitter and usher in a whole new generation of eaters and followers to what would be called America’s first viral restaurant by Newsweek.

Choi was named Food & Wine Best New Chef 2010, TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World 2016, LA Times Restaurant of the Year 2017, and has an award winning New York Times Bestseller memoir called, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food.

He is the host and executive producer of the food justice docuseries, Broken Bread which explores complex social justice issues in his hometown of Los Angeles and beyond. The series earned him the James Beard Award for Outstanding Host / Personality. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Choi and his Kogi BBQ food truck immediately began hosting free-food "drive-thrus" for the community. He is passionate about addressing the lack of accessibility and affordability, especially in food, nutrition, and healthcare.

He resides in Los Angeles, California where he oversees Kogi BBQ, Chego!, A-Frame, Alibi Room, LocoL, and his first restaurant outside California called Best Friend at Park MGM, Las Vegas. Choi is co-producer on the movie Chef and executive producer/co-host on the subsequent, The Chef Show on Netflix. He is now a highly recognized speaker at events and panels worldwide.

Speech Topics

Leadership on a Shoestring: Caring as a Concept

“Call me Papi.” There are no rules on the street beyond moral codes, and by respecting these, Roy Choi was able to build an archetype and structure of leadership. He doesn’t have much to offer employees beyond hard work, miles of travel on the road, and not so high wages in a low-margin business that delivers great value to the consumer. Yet employee morale is high. “Most people try to motivate through money or power; what I do is motivate through honesty,” Roy says. It’s almost like martial arts. It takes a lot of unlearning for a chef to learn the Kogi method, but Roy’s staff have acclimated to it: One does not bring preconceived notions to the dojo; instead one absorbs what the sensei has to offer. With very low turnover in his operation, it might seem surprising that he admittedly “hasn’t much to offer but knowledge.” Then again, with an apt instructor at the helm, it’s an easy task to hold the attention of the students in dojo. In this inspiring talk, Roy will demonstrate ways anyone in a leadership position can inspire staff –and he’ll touch on his amazing volunteer work teaching brightest young people in the deepest urban cores of Los Angeles to become food entrepreneurs in their own right.

Riding Shotgun with an L.A. Chef: An Evening with Roy Choi

“Come with me and ride shotgun, because I’m driving,” writes Roy Choi. “It’s a long ride but I’ve got a full tank.” How did this amazing culinary shape shifter evolve? How does he come up with these new yet ancient-rooted flavors? In this entertaining talk, Roy Choi, whose book Riding Shotgun with an L.A. Chef will be published in the fall of 2013 by Anthony Bourdain Books at Ecco Press, reveals that his own experience is the secret ingredient in his recipes. Growing up, he moved from one part of the city to another, and later went from the renowned Le Bernardin to cooking at a country club for retirees in the California desert to creating a street food truck social revolution. Evolution tells us that adaptation is crucial to survival, and Roy’s success is a result of an awakening about the disconnection between the obsessive celebrity food culture and those getting by with two or three jobs. Realizing that he could feed 10,000 hungry people each day with delicious real food they had never experienced was an epiphany, on many levels. By observing and listening to the community, then modifying his menu accordingly, he tapped into a whole new marketplace and delivered results that were profitable because they were true to the palate – and budgets – of Angelenos. Says Roy, “I want to break down the difference between being a chef and actually feeding people.”

The Twitter Taco and the Digital Handshake: Leveraging Social Media for Authentic Success

When Roy Choi launched his food truck Kogi BBQ, he and his partners had no money for marketing or advertising. Because of the mobile nature of the restaurant as the truck roamed the city, Kogi’s whole enterprise was dependent on customers being able to find the truck. So his team turned to the powerful reach of social media. Sending tweets of the truck’s location allowed customers to descend on it en masse, creating a party atmosphere that Roy felt was key to the experience. Kogi grossed more than $2 million its first year on the street and has built a Twitter following of more than 100,000, leading Newsweek to call it “America’s first viral restaurant.” In this talk based on Kogi’s rise to success, Roy will take audiences through their approach to the strategic nature of social media – how to translate social reach into customers who are loyal and engaged in an ongoing conversation, and through that into dollars and profit. Roy debunks the social media mystique, explaining that when you look closer, modern marketing in many ways is bringing back the methods of the past, where you might have reached out to each customer with a handshake. Today, that “handshake” can be digital. “You need to inhabit the digital space,” says Roy Choi. “We didn’t just create it as a tool – we lived and breathed it. You can almost smell the food on Twitter, someone back there in the kitchen bringing the thing to life.”

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