Chef Roy Choi has responded to New York Times critic Pete Wells’s zero star review of he and Daniel Patterson’sLocoL fast food joint/social enterprise in Oakland, California, claiming the likes of Wells are in fact part of the problem the project is trying to address.
In his review, Wells ponders why in a neighbourhood already crammed with fast food offerings, LocoL offers “less satisfying versions of what’s already there, when they could be selling great versions of something new?” comparing current offerings including fried chicken and chilli to "hospital food."
LocoL was devised to bring healthy fast food to deprived communities, with the Oakland restaurant opening in May, four months after the first in Watts, Los Angeles. There are also plans to expand further within the Bay Area. But according to Wells, "The most nutritious burger on earth won’t help you if you don’t want to eat it."
Making clear that his main gripe is with the food, Wells goes on to praise the atmosphere and design of LocoL, saying: “I don’t know of any other fast-food chain that has put street culture at the heart of its locations in this way.” However, his zero stars, 'satisfactory' rating will confuse those who have read his famous savaging of every aspect of Thomas Keller’sPer Se, to which he still awarded two stars.
In a response on Instagram, retweeted by Patterson, Choi had this to say: “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.”
Read the response in full below:
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."
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