Q&A Chef Roy Choi: "The Whole World is Pot"

The 44-year-old stoner–cum–culinary savant is getting into the luxury-hotel game—and bringing room service to a new high.

Photograph: Nigel Parry/CPi Syndication.

The 44-year-old stoner–cum–culinary savant who brought Korean barbecue and gourmet-food trucks to the masses is getting into the luxury-hotel game—and bringing room service to a new high.

DETAILS: You're the culinary adviser for Jon Favreau's upcoming comedy Chef. He first heard of Kogi when Gwyneth Paltrow brought one of the trucks to the set of Iron Man 2. How far back does your relationship with Hollywood go?

ROY CHOI: I've been around Hollywood my whole life. I met Henry Winkler when I was 5. It's really just part of living here. Our trucks go to every venue, every party, every after-party, every postproduction wrap possible. And long before that, I was a chef at the Beverly Hilton, making room-service plates for Tom Hanks and Alicia Keys.

DETAILS: You went from working in hotel kitchens to running the whole food-and-drink program—right down to room service—at the recently renovated Line hotel. What's that like?

ROY CHOI: It's like building an amusement park. The developers—they made the Ace and the NoMad in New York—started asking me to do it three years ago. I turned them down twice. My life was really free. I was running the trucks and a couple of restaurants, smoking weed, having fun, doing my thing. The last thing I wanted was to get involved with this huge project. It sounded like a job.

DETAILS: So what changed?

ROY CHOI: It was right back in my hood, Koreatown. I'd been to so many parties at that hotel growing up, so I walked through and things began to materialize. I started to feel the energy, I started to see things. It was kind of like when Jack Nicholson walks into the bar in The Shining.

DETAILS: Why did you decide to call the whole concept—the dining at the restaurants, the greenhouse, the bar, and the bakery—Pot?

ROY CHOI: The whole world is Pot. The name has different angles: It's the pot that started a lot of immigrant businesses here in L.A.—literally, friends would all chip in to a pot and somebody would take home the money. That's how my parents started their restaurant. It's our main dish, the hot pot, with burners at every table. And it's definitely about weed.

DETAILS: Speaking of which, what's the best weed in L.A. right now?

ROY CHOI: It's always OG Kush. No matter how much the city changes, it's always OG Kush.

DETAILS: Is it true you actually tried to put a dispensary in the hotel?

ROY CHOI: No, but we're going to put a big green sign that says pot outside with no explanation. I love that people are going to walk down Wilshire Boulevard and think we're a dispensary. Then any stoners walking in, looking to buy some shit, are gonna realize it's a restaurant. They'll go, "Damn, look at those red-bean buns! Look at those éclairs! Holy shit, look at that Korean barbecue!"

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