At René Redzepi's MAD Symposium a couple weeks ago, LA food truck king Roy Choi's presentation riffed on this year's theme of guts. Choi asked a room filled with some of the world's foremost chefs to acknowledge the fact that they're pretty much only feeding privileged communities. Choi cites his 3 Worlds Cafe, which serves coffee and fresh fruit smoothies in south central Los Angeles and asks those attending, "Let's do something and feed those that we're not reaching collectively."
1: On who has the guts to open in South Central: "There are no chef-driven restaurants. Not one...the restaurants that do exist are fast food chains. They got the 'guts' to go in."
2: A challenge for those assembled: "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?"
3: On living in two worlds: "I study the science and search for knowledge: foraging, the indigenous cuisines, sustainability, heirloom seeds, the research of fermentation, bacterial cultures, microbes. All this stuff we're talking about, I'm a student of it too, man. But I'm also in the hood, where people are starving."
4: On who the MAD chefs feed: "Aren't we still feeding the same people? The privileged? There's nothing wrong with the fact that we can afford it, but aren't we just feeding the people who can afford it?"
5: On diners: "We're feeding a small populace and we think we're feeding the world."
6: Tying it to the theme: "Do we have the guts, us, collectively, to break this cycle?"
7: On a 2012 blog post, which he also calls a "meltdown": "I put out the bat signal to Jamie Oliver."
8: On 3 Worlds Cafe: "It's not a restaurant with marcona almonds and sea urchin and the things that we're able to access. But it's a start."
9: On accessibility: "We lie to ourselves that food is accessible to everyone. It's not true, you guys."
10: On what kids eat: "In the ghettos of America, we feed our children corrosive, chemical waste. And I don't know, as chefs, how do you feel about that? I've made my decisions, but I'm just one dude."
11: In sum: "This is the premiere food symposium in the world. To quote you guys: 'Intended to invoke a sense of courage and urgency...Enabling this year's symposium to become a venue where we can reflect on the stories and ideas that no one usually gets the opportunity to tell.' So I stand here with the guts to ask you, please, let's do something. Let's do something and feed those that we're not reaching collectively."