When I started reading this short piece below, subtitled “The chefs Roy Choi and Jose Mejia sample the Vegan Hooligans’ plant-based junk food at an L.A. pop-up.” and containing no photos, before getting two paragraphs in I had to see what Abby’s Diner looked like, and found the image above and those below, on Instagram and in a story by KCET, so following is a mix of the sources:
The chef Roy Choi posted up at the counter of Abby’s Diner in Los Angeles recently. Several times a week, the place morphs from a traditional greasy spoon—booths, tiled floor, B.L.T.s—to a greasy spoon that serves vegan renditions of such drive-through classics as the McDonald’s McRib.
Sheila Marikar has not appeared in our pages before, but I will be on the lookout for more from her, because even without images (thanks to KCET and the Hooligans’ Instagram account for those here) her words make vegan more compelling:
“I like to re-create a lot of stuff from fast food so people feel comfortable,” Jose Mejia said. He is a founder of the Vegan Hooligans, which began popping up last February. (The name is a nod to his love of punk rock and soccer.) He wore overalls and a brown beanie. “I wanted to create a brand that didn’t just capture the eyes of, like, vegans,” he added.
Eleven years ago, Choi co-founded Kogi BBQ, a fleet of Korean-taco trucks that fuelled a food-truck renaissance and got him on a number of best-of lists (Food & Wine Best New Chef, Time 100). He is not a vegan. “Kogi, for Pete’s sake, means ‘meat’ in Korean,” he said. But after meeting Mejia while filming an episode of his TV series, “Broken Bread,” a less hedonistic version of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” Choi decided to try more meat substitutes. Now he eats animals maybe once a week.
“I don’t like labels,” he said. “If you’re a vegan and you’re woke as fuck, you shouldn’t be putting me down because I haven’t gotten there yet.”
The same could be said of plant-based meat, which a recent report projected will become a hundred-and-forty-billion-dollar industry in the next decade. “There’s a lot of processing, a lot of gums and thickeners and emulsifiers and hidden ingredients in there,” Choi said. “We have no idea where this is taking us: Is it good for you or not? Is replacing animal fat with plant fat and trans fat better or worse for you? It’s like vaping versus smoking. No one knows.”
In one episode of “Broken Bread,” which began streaming on Hulu last week, Choi explores what food might look like if we ate less meat. (He skeptically eyes a pile of succulents foraged by a sustainable caterer: “You think people are gonna look at this and say, ‘Damn, let’s eat’?”) Other topics—chefs who repurpose leftovers, the food activists of Watts—also lack food-porn appeal.
“I made a pact with myself: There’s no need for me to do shitty television,” he said. “I don’t need to put myself in a cutthroat battle or show how spicy I can eat something.”
Last year, a producer from the online video network Tastemade pitched him the show that he had been trying to sell to Hollywood agents for years. Tastemade had a public-television deal and a prime-time slot (plus streaming)…
Read the whole story here.