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Business of Hype: Roy Choi

Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders and entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. On today’s episode, Jeff sits down with chef and restaurateur Roy Choi in his newly-located Las Vegas home to discuss his thought process, early beginnings and newest venture.

Prior to being a restaurant industry staple, Roy spent 10 years working as a chef for various hotels and boutiques. It wasn’t until the 2008 recession left him unemployed did he decide to open Kogi Truck, a Korean-Mexican fusion taco truck, that disrupted the fine-dining-based food industry with its aggressive yet organic social media presence. And it all started on a dirty napkin.

“We literally started a business on a napkin,” recalls Choi. “We went in and put in $1500 [USD] into the business. Everything became instinctual at the time. Even though it was money I didn’t really have in a sense, everything was completely instinctual—where I didn’t second guess a fucking thing. Soon as I said let’s roll, we went to the produce market; we went to all of my old connects as a chef and went directly to the source and said, ‘Hey, we’ll come out the back, talk and buy directly from you–the meat, the purveyors, the produce, everything like that.’ Then we just started prepping, and I worked on the prototype. We all ate at the first one, and we looked at each other like we saw a ghost. We were possessed.”

Since then, Roy has reinvigorated the Koreatown, LA scene with restaurants such as Commissary, Pot Lobby Bar and Pot Cafe inside the Line Hotel. He most recently stepped outside his hometown to open Best Friend, a Korean restaurant reminiscent of Los Angeles that resides inside the Park MGM Hotel. As he opens up about his various ventures, Roy discusses transitioning from being an independent owner to working with bigger conglomerates to take a more centerstage role. 

So tune in to hear Roy reflect on the past decade, from taco truck owner to restaurant mogul, and what he calls “the perfect storm” needed to become the visionary he is today.

This episode features references to the following:

1:22 – Roy’s move to Las Vegas
2:17 – Best Friend
3:09 – Park MGM Hotel
4:53 – Patrick MartinezTravis JensenFung
6:43 – Drawing inspiration from marijuana
9:00 – Kogi BBQ Truck
9:39 – 2008 Recession
10:34 – Twitter
13:11 – Kogi Truck
15:35 – Beverly Hilton Hotel
18:31 – Roy’s book, L.A. Son
22:49 – Natasha Phan, Choi’s Director of Business Development
25:31 – Vision & process
30:51 – Alibi RoomCommissaryPOTThe Line Hotel
32:56 – Daniel Patterson
33:15 – 3 Worlds Cafe
36:37 – Michelin Star