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Chef Roy Choi Responds to NYT Zero Star Review of Locol

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It’s all about the PMA

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This week, NYT restaurant critic Pete Wells dropped a goose egg on Locol, the idealistic fast food concept from chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson. Locol’s mission is to serve reliably nutritious food to underserved neighborhoods, but its Oakland, Cali. location (which is the one Wells visited) lives along a stretch where half a dozen other restaurants also reside. The East Coast-based critic almost completely hated the food. His point: Why would anyone choose to dine at a restaurant serving mediocre-to-poor versions of items that are available, and taste better, across the street?

“Why offer less satisfying versions of what’s already there, when they could be selling great versions of something new? ... Mr. Patterson and Mr. Choi seem to have thought about the social dimensions of fast food so much that they now see their target audience as problems to be solved, not customers to be pleased. The most nutritious burger on earth won’t help you if you don’t want to eat it.”

The trouble with this argument is that what Locol is doing is bigger than the taste of its food, its menu, or even one of its locations. Eater reached out to Locol’s camp yesterday for comment. Late in the day Choi posted his response to the review on Instagram.

Zero stars. I know many of you want me to respond or snap back at him but the situation to me is much more than that. I welcome Pete's review. It tells me a lot more about the path. I don't know Pete but he is now inextricably linked to LocoL forever. So I'll share with you what I wrote to a friend and our team. We got that PMA: "The truth is that LocoL has hit a nerve. Doesn't mean all people love it, some hate it. But no one is indifferent by it. That's the spirit of LocoL. It has nothing to do with my ego. It's something bigger than all of us. Pete Wells is a component to its DNA. His criticisms are a reflection of us and the nerve that LocoL touches. And our imperfections. Also the nerve of challenging the binary structure of privileged thought patterns and how life is not just about what's a success or failure, but some things are real struggles and growth journeys. We all know the food is not as bad as he states. Is it perfect? NO. But it's not as bad as he writes. And all minorities aren't criminals either. And all hoods aren't filled with dangerous people either. But the pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to.. He didn't need to go there but he did. That's why he's a part of LocoL. The power of this change and this nerve that it hits. It compelled him to write something he knows would hurt a community that is already born from a lot of pain and struggle.. Crazy, right? But I see it as a piece to this whole puzzle." #LocoL #Watts #Oakland

A photo posted by Chef Roy (@ridingshotgunla) on

Zero stars.

I know many of you want me to respond or snap back at him but the situation to me is much more than that. I welcome Pete's review. It tells me a lot more about the path. I don't know Pete but he is now inextricably linked to LocoL forever. So I'll share with you what I wrote to a friend and our team. We got that PMA:

"The truth is that LocoL has hit a nerve. Doesn't mean all people love it, some hate it. But no one is indifferent by it.

That's the spirit of LocoL.

It has nothing to do with my ego.

It's something bigger than all of us.

Pete Wells is a component to its DNA.

His criticisms are a reflection of us and the nerve that LocoL touches. And our imperfections.

Also the nerve of challenging the binary structure of privileged thought patterns and how life is not just about what's a success or failure, but some things are real struggles and growth journeys.

We all know the food is not as bad as he states. Is it perfect? NO. But it's not as bad as he writes.

And all minorities aren't criminals either. And all hoods aren't filled with dangerous people either.

But the pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to..

He didn't need to go there but he did.

That's why he's a part of LocoL.

The power of this change and this nerve that it hits.

It compelled him to write something he knows would hurt a community that is already born from a lot of pain and struggle..

Crazy, right?

But I see it as a piece to this whole puzzle." #LocoL #Watts #Oakland

Choi’s partner in the project, chef Daniel Patterson, opted to retweet Choi’s missive.

Commenters came out in support of the chef, with one writing: “That whole review has convinced me to go to LocoL in Watts AGAIN this weekend and support good food at a great price. Not only will I be going, but I will introduce it to my mom, 3 siblings, brother in law. I'll even feed the leftover to my moms cats, Frida and Slash, if there is any leftover, which I doubt. Thank you for continuing to be a pioneer in the food world Chef.”

NYT Food Critic Drops Zero Stars on Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s Feel-Good Fast Food, Locol [E]
Fast Food for Needy Neighborhoods, at Locol in California [NYT]
All Locol Coverage [E]


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