"Papi," aka Kogi truck co-creator Roy Choi, really lost his cool this week, threatening Church & State chef Walter Manzke with a "beatdown." The beef started when Manzke, a chef with celebrated history in L.A., slagged-off food trucks to Squid Ink, calling them a trend and something he wouldn’t eat. While we agree that eating off trucks (well before the new wave) is a crucial element of why we love dining in L.A., the blow-back was more than a wee bit juvenile.
Lest someone actually have a strong opinion around here, Papi lashed out in the comments like a cornered rat. Calling Manzke’s food "extremely secular" and "exclusive," Papi is insistent on one point, "I come from the streets, yet I’ve cooked for kings and queens. But in the streets, there is a code. When you talk smack, be ready for the beatdown! …maybe I’ll just park my ride right in front of Church and State and say whassup!" Ugly, unnecessary, and unbecoming? Yes.
As it goes, the comments have lead to even more comments, with various people telling Kogi things like they suck or telling Manzke that his grub wouldn’t fly in Compton. Even "wine pimp" David Haskell jumped to Manzke’s defense.
For Kogi’s part, there has been a tepid apology. Papi wrote back to explain," There is no beatdown. I just broke down what I know about food after 12 years in professional kitchens and tried to find some answers… There is no hood or gangsta facade, my response was just an impulse from my upbringing here in L.A., if you bite me I bite back."
With this emotional tirade coming on the heels of Kogi chef Roy Choi getting choked up as Ruth Reichl (the great Jonathan Gold corrects us and Mother Jones) Food Arts editor Jim Poris used the term "ethnic food", we have to ask what’s up with all the high emotions over at Kogi? Maybe they need a vacation or someone should check their water supply, though you can’t say they’re not passionate about what they do. In any case, Papi, dudes "from the streets" can have class too.
Truck vs. Church and State: Kogi Bites Back [Squid Ink/L.A. Weekly]