Monday, devastating news broke the hearts of foodies all across Los Angeles: Roy Choi put in his notice, hinting at quitting cooking and quitting meat altogether. In a blunt piece he wrote for Riding Shotgun, he announced that he was thinking of leaving cooking and that he stopped eating meat and that he wanted to work with Jamie Oliver. Because it’s written like a Suzan-Lori Parks play and because it’s so slightly bawdy, he can’t be serious with it. And, if he is, we’re all in a little bit of trouble. In any event, we have five theories as to what this all means–and we want to hear yours, too, in order to prevent a culinary mental breakdown.
1. This is a publicity stunt: Roy wants attention.
Obvious choice: this is just to shock and awe us, grab us by the nuts, hold us for a few weeks, then release us with some fantastic new takes on meat as his palette has been clear for some time. My initial reaction to this was sadness then immediately, “Oh, he’s pulled a Joaquin Phoenix.” It’s one of those moves a needy teenager does when they want you to give them focus or money: they cry, they scream, they say they want to die until you look at them for a bit, which is when they turn into mush and do everything you ask of them. Maybe he’s upset that Ben Jones’ immersive piece at MOCA’s Transmission LA eclipsed his food installation? That could be the answer. Thus, he wants attention.
2. He is being entirely honest and is actually going to change.
Maybe he really is sick of meat? Maybe he really is bored with cooking? Maybe he’s at a midlife crisis and wants to do something new? Roy is in a position where he has not only the Los Angeles food scene in his hand but a huge portion of the world. He nearly made the food truck scene happen a few years ago with the Kogi Truck and is the father of mashing different food styles together in an effortless, approachable way. He’s gotten praise from everyone and has been at the top of the class for years–now he wants a change. It’s like when Michael Jordan quit basketball and turned to baseball: he was bored and needed something new. Roy is in a position now where his boredom could write him a ticket anywhere so why wouldn’t he leave food and meat and everything he’s known for behind?
3. He wants to cross over to the mainstream.
This gets at the whole Jamie Oliver thing: he wants to be a household name beyond foodies. What he said about Oliver was basically him performing a seance, a call to this mythical food entity to speak to him and collaborate as a co-host on a television show. One doesn’t work with Jamie Oliver without being a part of his machine. That guy is basically the food world’s Angelina Jolie at this point–and Roy wants to be Brad Pitt. He can’t be Brad Pitt without doing a little whoring, showing a little flesh to the camera and reinventing himself through being healthy (i.e., vegetarian) in order to appeal to the modern housewife/househusband/family/school. He has the power and charisma and street smarts to do this. We’re sure he has the representation, too.
4. He wants to reinvent his cuisine.
Roy has done meat. He’s mastered pork. He’s made fried chicken that makes grown men want to cry (AKA, me). What do you do after you’ve conquered that? Move on to not-meat! His piece basically said that he’s bored with meat and that he wants food to be exciting for him again: he’s going to reinvent his cuisine and become some sort of vegetarian/vegan messiah, making it cool and hip and sexy not to eat meat. He’d bring a rawness to that world, a world that is usually associated with hippies and Gwenyth Paltrow. Maybe we’ll see a No Meat Kogi Truck and a Sunny–But Meatless–Spot–time will tell!
5. He wants us all to riot.
His piece is written in reference to the riot anniversary and how much Los Angeles has/hasn’t/it-doesn’t-matter-if-it changed. Maybe instead of wanting attention and instead of actually wanting a change he just wants to piss us all off. He’s a rabble rouser who just wants to get people ticked off, demanding more from foodies and more from people who have taste: he wants everyone to recognize that there needs to be more people like him. His new manifesto of sorts stands as his Howard Beale’s “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.” speech from Network moment: he wants us to get mad as hell and stand up for what we eat and who we allow to cook for us. Like Oliver, he’s making a different, more sophisticated call to action in relationship to what and how we eat.
This is a very confounding and admittedly silly/strange moment in Los Angeles food culture–but we’re excited to see what happens. What do you guys think about all of this? Do you have any theories of your own? Share what you think in the comments or Tweet them at us. We’re dying to know!