Taking in Locol, Roy Choi's new Watts restaurant

locol-iris-choi.jpgAt Locol, Choi with employees Jeremiah Boddie and Lydia Friend in front. Robert McCovery, Nartrella Williams and Shanika Gant are in back. Photos by Iris Schneider.

The mood inside Locol, the new restaurant that opened in Watts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was jubilant. The workers had huge smiles on their faces, the diners seemed satisfied to be among the first to sample Roy Choi's latest menu, and Choi, the celebrity chef who brought the restaurant to life, was exhausted but happy.

The Korean wunderkind chef who went from manning a Korean Kogi taco truck to owning several super-popular restaurants throughout LA threw down the gauntlet in 2013 at an international food symposium hosted in Copenhagen by the owner of Noma. "What if every high caliber chef, all of us in here, told our investors as we're building restaurants...for every fancy restaurant we build, it would be a requirement to build a restaurant in the hood as well."

Choi and San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson decided to team up and bring healthy, affordable fast food to kids in neighborhoods where healthy food is scarce. Locol is a first on many levels: built in a neighborhood widely known as a food desert, boasting new construction, hip design and good food with fresh ingredients at affordable prices. The restaurant is causing quite a stir as people who never ventured that far down the 110 freeway unless they were passing South Central on the way to LAX are now heading east on Century Boulevard, past Watts Towers to 103rd and Anzac St. to line up behind local residents for the messy beef bowls and turkey foldies that Choi has created.

Anthony Adams is one of the 60 locals that Choi has hired to help run the restaurant. "I'm here to act as a liaison between the company and the community," he said as he greeted a customer and held open the door. "Watts has a bad reputation that precedes us, before most of us were even born. I watch the kids come by. Just having something new to look at in the neighborhood is exciting in itself," he said, beaming.

"This is big. Roy Choi is the man...I've even written a poem about it," he said, and then he recited it.

Here is my latest post, from Watts, on LAObserved: http://www.laobserved.com/intell/2016/02/taking_in_locol_roy_chois_new.php

Posted by Iris Schneider on Thursday, February 4, 2016

locol-anthony-adams-iris.jpgAnthony Adams.

locol-patterson-greets-iris.jpgDaniel Patterson greets a customer.



locol-choi-poses-iris.jpgEphraim Woods and Susan Weissman with Choi.

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