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L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food

4.6 3
by Roy Choi, Tien Nguyen, Natasha Phan

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Los Angeles: A patchwork megalopolis defined by its unlikely cultural collisions; the city that raised and shaped Roy Choi, the boundary-breaking chef who decided to leave behind fine dining to feed the city he loved—and, with the creation of the Korean taco, reinvented street food along the way.

Abounding with both the food and the stories that gave


Los Angeles: A patchwork megalopolis defined by its unlikely cultural collisions; the city that raised and shaped Roy Choi, the boundary-breaking chef who decided to leave behind fine dining to feed the city he loved—and, with the creation of the Korean taco, reinvented street food along the way.

Abounding with both the food and the stories that gave rise to Choi's inspired cooking, L.A. Son takes us through the neighborhoods and streets most tourists never see, from the hidden casinos where gamblers slurp fragrant bowls of pho to Downtown's Jewelry District, where a ten-year-old Choi wolfed down Jewish deli classics between diamond deliveries; from the kitchen of his parents' Korean restaurant and his mother's pungent kimchi to the boulevards of East L.A. and the best taquerias in the country, to, at last, the curbside view from one of his emblematic Kogi taco trucks, where people from all walks of life line up for a revolutionary meal.

Filled with over 85 inspired recipes that meld the overlapping traditions and flavors of L.A.—including Korean fried chicken, tempura potato pancakes, homemade chorizo, and Kimchi and Pork Belly Stuffed Pupusas—L.A. Son embodies the sense of invention, resourcefulness, and hybrid attitude of the city from which it takes its name, as it tells the transporting, unlikely story of how a Korean American kid went from lowriding in the streets of L.A. to becoming an acclaimed chef.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 11/04/2013
With driving metaphors coming fast and furious throughout this memoir cum cookbook, there is no doubting and no pulling away from Choi’s gritty embrace of L.A.’s mean streets. Starting with his childhood immigration from Korea and his family’s constant upheaval and relocation across South Central, through West Hollywood, and into a house once owned by baseball great Nolan Ryan in Orange County, Choi learns the restaurant business, as well as the jewelry business, at his parents’ apron strings, before falling in with a rough crowd as a teen. Typical of Choi’s 90 m.p.h. stream-of-consciousness, he recalls, “Step up in a fight, drop three hits of acid... go eat, rob a store, babysit your kid? Sure. Let’s go.” His taste for kimchi and dumplings give way to a taste for crack and gambling, but a happy ending is served up as Choi emerges relatively unscathed by his vices, lucks into an education at New York’s Culinary School of America, and finally finds his groove back in Los Angeles as the kingpin of Kogi BBQ Taco Trucks. A total of 60 recipes are included, dropped in like mile markers across his life’s story. There are the twice-cooked duck fat fries he loved as a kid, the kung pao chicken he ate with his crew, and the dishes, such as broiled halibut with soy glaze, that came with maturity. Doe Coover, Doe Coover Agency. (Nov.)
Los Angeles Times
“At the moment, Roy Choi is one of the most prominent lenses the nation has into L.A.”
Food & Wine
“Choi is the rare chef whose life story—which includes working with chef Eric Ripert and a weeklong cocaine binge—is as compelling as his food.”
Associated Press Staff
His beautiful book .... is two parts story (Choi’s coming up), one part recipe (his OMG crazy good creations, like ketchup fried rice). You may never cook from this book (though the recipes are eminently doable), but it won’t matter. It’s a fun flip even if all you do is drool.”
New York Times
“A a memoir-cookbook that moves like a novel.”
Ad Week
“In its pages, and even more so in person, one finds in Choi a personality who is at once high-end and low-end, flawed and at the top of his game, relentless and chill, coarse and refined-and absolutely, unapologetically authentic.”
Library Journal
The title of this work not so subtly hints that whatever is coming, it's personal—and that the author is likely to be opinionated. Indeed, chef Choi shoots from the hip, folding recipes into his life to make a sort of autobiographical cookbook. Born in Korea, Choi grew up in Los Angeles, and he weaves stories of gambling and addiction together with reflections on culture, identity, and family, resulting in a memoir as bold as the flavors in his food. Recipes range widely (Korean fried chicken, beef cheek tacos, twice-cooked duck fat fries) and include Choi's varied influences—a mélange of his classical training at the Culinary Institute of America and the more global flavors of his childhood. Most dishes should be accessible to even less-experienced cooks. The volume contains ample photographs and information on sourcing ingredients, cooking tools, and basic techniques. VERDICT Though this title isn't for the faint of heart, Bourdain fans will eat up this gritty memoir-slash-cookbook.—Courtney Greene McDonald, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Kirkus Reviews
Street-wise, honest in its admission of trials and punctuated with vernacular swagger, Choi's debut pays tribute to family and his enduring fascination with the melting pot of Los Angeles. Named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2010, the author is the co-founder and co-owner of Kogi BBQ, Chego! and other restaurants. With co-writers Nguyen and Phan, Choi recounts key moments during his childhood and teenage years as the son of Korean immigrants who ran the Silver Garden restaurant and whose path from apartments in Koreatown to a mansion in Mission Viejo was marked by turmoil and adventuresome forays in the jewelry trade. Choi's experiences of love, success, failure, duty and the culture shock of upward mobility during the 1980s set the stage for drug experimentation and gambling addiction. Later chapters detail the sudden realization that led him to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, his apprenticeship and his rise in the restaurant industry. Choi presents the impressive turnaround with gratitude and panache, which balance an otherwise casual tone rife with expletives. Dozens of recipes range from indulgent cheap eats, such as instant ramen with sliced cheese, to more complex fare, including duck breast and beef medallions. From deli-style pecan pie to eggplant curry, kimchi jjigae to carne asada, Choi's eclectic selections are not intended to showcase his finest repertoire; they represent tried-and-true comfort foods that have sustained him at varying stages during his life. Using memory as a guide, this highly personal tour of LA and New York reveals pockets of ingenuity in vibrant, sometimes-rough neighborhoods. A bold account of how a professionally trained chef found his calling in the return to simpler, homestyle cooking that bridges cultures and appeals to everyday customers.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
7.84(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.32(d)

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L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this as a cookbook with maybe some interesting blurbs about Roy Choi's life. As I started reading, it became a great story being interrupted by recipes as my interest in it increased. To their credit, they are great recipes. This could have been easily put out as two separate books; a biography and a cookbook.  I recommend this to lovers of both.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"L.A. Son" is a fast, fun read about Roy Choi, the Korean-American chef who pulled himself off of the L.A. streets and into the modern birth of the food truck. As a Korean-American myself who has lived in Los Angeles, I found his story to be engaging. I especially loved the stories about his parents, as my parents shared many similar qualities. The book is also filled with tons of recipes, from more traditional Korean fare to food that's a hybrid of several cultures. It's definitely a culinary adventure, much like the actual food trucks in L.A. I highly recommend this book to all Asian Americans, as you will not only appreciate the recipes, but the stories about growing up in So. Cal. If you like this book, I highly recommend two other books by Asian Americans. Chef Eddie Huang's "Fresh Off The Boat" is a funny and perfect companion to "L.A. Son." However, Eddie is based in New York, not L.A. Physician Dr. Anthony Youn's "In Stitches" is probably my favorite recent Asian American memoir. It's a funny, heartwarming, and at-times heart-breaking tale of one man's journey to overcome the difficulties of traditional Korean American parents and find his way in the world. Very highly recommended.
Donna_Coleman More than 1 year ago
Four stars for this interesting look at L.A. through the eyes of chef Roy Choi. Details could be better, but still a very interesting read.