Roy Choi Confronts His Cannabis Demons
The acclaimed chef and noted cannabis enthusiast faces his own marijuana biases through his new show “Broken Bread.”
When walking onto the set at the Tastemade studios in Santa Monica, California, chef Roy Choi blends in as one of the friendly faces designed to make sure the day goes smoothly. Dressed in a Stüssy sweatshirt and Carhartt ball cap, Choi is quick to accommodate me as a guest in his hometown. After he hears I’ve made the flight from Oakland to Los Angeles that morning and don’t yet have a place to stay, he begins naming a few spots to crash.
Choi is a legend in Los Angeles. The 49-year-old chef helped usher in the gourmet food truck movement when he opened Kogi BBQ Taco Truck in 2008. He wrote a best-selling cookbook that doubles as a memoir, describing his experiences growing up as a second-generation Korean American in Los Angeles. He’s opened several restaurants in his hometown, set out to change the future of fast food with celebrated chef Daniel Patterson through a project called Locol and recently opened a restaurant in the Park MGM in Las Vegas. He co-produced the 2014 film “Chef,” directed by and starring Jon Favreau, and has been named on TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world twice. Through all this hype, Choi has never positioned himself away from the struggles and triumphs of the average person. He’s never stopped expressing his truths and he’s never stopped smoking or talking about his love of cannabis.
“I’m truly at one with weed,” Choi says. “It’s my martial art. It’s my shaman, it’s my life…”
Choi is the type of person who follows his intuition and waits to act until the moment is right. That was the case, he says, when it came to creating his TV series “Broken Bread” with LA’s public broadcasting network KCET. The show is a six-part series examining how food can be an agent of change and, among the other episodes that shine a light on other chefs who give back to their community, there is an episode that looks at cannabis at this pivotal moment in time. Choi positions himself as a member of the old guard, a longtime stoner satisfied with enjoying cannabis in its most traditional ways: rolled up in a paper or packed into a bong. He said creating the show allowed him to confront his own preconceived notions of what it means to be a person who enjoys marijuana.
Choi and I begin our interview in a living room-type of set up, where I run through my questions with an acute sense of ease, as if I’m chatting with an old friend rather than one of the world’s most celebrated culinary minds. When the interview concludes, I give Choi a copy of Cannabis Now and he enthusiastically inquires if I have anything else to give him. We’ve just gone through a discussion about how both of us are not under the influence of cannabis that day because you have to approach certain moments with a clear head, but when I hand him a chocolate-covered coffee bean from a company called Somatik containing 3 mg of THC, he asks me to double-check the dose before enthusiastically opening the package and eating the edible right away. I’m then invited to hang out on set and try some of the food made by the chefs the show highlights. I sample a vegan version of a cheesesteak from The Vegan Hooligans and chat with business owner Jose Mejia. While I’m lingering after my appointment, I overhear some of the interviews Choi is conducting with food and wine writers keen to hear about his new show.
Published: September 30, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News