- Reporters Desk
By: Katrina Guevara, Contributing Writer
First come food trucks, then come restaurants, then affordable and healthy food marry. C-U-I-S-I-N-E.
That is the love story of chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson from the ground up. The duo have joined forces to open their first fast food restaurant, called LocoL in Watts, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More branches are tentatively targeted for the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco and East Oakland.
“It’s two concepts together,” said Choi when describing the meaning behind the restaurant name at last August’s MAD4 festival. “Loco, like we’re fucking crazy to be doing this; And then, local.”
Their mission statement on their LocoL IndieGogo page is to have “Revolutionary fast food made with real ingredients to nourish the body, soul and community.” Choi and Patterson are on a quest to feed everyone delicious, healthy and affordable meals, especially in low-income neighborhoods. They are also collaborating with world-renowned chefs Rene Redzepi (Noma) and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bakery) to revolutionize food technology. Patterson has collaborated with Tartine Bakery on whole grain burger buns technology by using rice flour as an ingredient. They aim to change supply lines in order to make efficient and delicious food to bring to other areas, said Patterson in the LocoL introduction video. Choi said he wants to put chefs rather than the suits back into the food game.
Choi and Patterson announced the restaurant concept at last year’s MAD4, the annual Copenhagen gathering for chefs, cooks and farmers founded by Redzepi. Choi’s big question was where to start with social change. So, he started by applying the Danish ergonomics of practical, minimal and high-minded style into food culture. Choi does not like the idea of fast food trapping children with unhealthy options. He wanted a restaurant to have flow, so his first concept for LocoL was to have an open kitchen.
Patterson said no chefs have gone into the fast food sector. Since chefs ultimately feed people, they can perhaps be a solution to hunger.
The LocoL Instagram (@welocol) account showcases the makings of the fast-food joint. The restaurant started its job fair in mid-December for a staff entirely local to Watts. The social media account previews the development of menu items ranging from a pressed burger to nuggets. From the MAD4 symposium, Choi said a $5 to $9 burger is a huge valley. The recently posted LocoL menu offers “Burgs” at $4. “The Fried Chicken Burger” has slaw, buttermilk mayo and hot sauce. “Foldies” at $2 are a combination of a taco, quesadilla and pupusa. “The Bulgar Language” for $4 is a bowl that comes with green goddess creamy dressing and croutons. The appetizers are $1 each, along with comparatively affordable items like bowls, burritos, soft serve ice cream, agua frescas and breakfast items.
The massive open kitchen is the sight of the minimal restaurant with “We Are Here” lettering at the main door.
LocoL is Watts’ first sit-down restaurant in years, said Councilman Joe Buscaino from a video of the soft opening on Jan. 16.
The original IndieGogo campaign to fund the fast food restaurant reached its goal of $100,000 by March 19, 2015. More than 1,366 backers donated a total of $128,103 for both restaurant locations.
The concept started a few years ago with Patterson founding The Cooking Project to teach children how to cook at home. Patterson said there is no cooking problem, just a tasting problem in the nation. Choi volunteered at A Place Called Home in South Central Los Angeles to empower the youth to open their food-based business through cooking.
LocoL is now the latest addition to the densely populated 2.1 square mile neighborhood of Watts. The Los Angeles Times reports 45 percent of food places in South Central are fast food chains. The United States has the biggest fast food industry, making $200 billion annually. On the contrary, the median resident age of Watts is 21 years old, which is younger than most of the county and country. The neighborhood has the highest rate of single parent families at 2,818 families out of a population of 41,028 population in 2008 based on Los Angeles Department of City Planning estimates.
Choi is the owner of local restaurants Chego!, Sunny Spot, A-Frame, Pot, 3 Worlds Café, Alibi Room, Commissary at the Line Hotel and the infamous Kogi truck. Daniel is the founder and owner of Daniel Patterson Group, which includes restaurants Coi, Alta, Plum, Plum Bar and Haven.
Fast food has quickly changed in the last two generations. Choi believes it can be changed in another two generations. With Choi dubbed as one of the godfathers of the food truck movement, he along with self-taught chef Patterson are forces to be reckoned with.
Details: (310) 123-4567; www.welocol.com
Venue: LocoL, 1950 E 103rd St., Los Angeles