TODAY’S MOOD MUSIC GOES OUT TO STACEY RICKELS OF BEVERLY HILLS (Chego West misses you, too!)
Aloha. How art thou, everybody?
Oh, just wanted to send out a mini shout out to the coz, Young Ho Yoo, who has left his post as catering director of Kogi BBQ to open up a food truck of his own. Here at the Kogi offices, we always said that if any of us were to ever leave the Kogi nest to successfully open up a food truck of our own, it’d be Young Ho Yoo.
He’s come a long way from being the lady slayer who lulled pretty girls to our trucks in the early days, to sweet-talking manager of our since-retired Azul truck to manager and eventually director of the fearsomely influential catering department. (Seriously, guys. Ever wonder why sometimes our stops will change 24 hours before we’re supposed to roll up? Behold the power of the catering department.) And we wish him all the best!
Many congrats to Luisana Valdez who has stepped into his shoes as New Director of the Fearsome Catering Department. No, she won’t bat her eyelashes at an attractive stranger to get us an extra sale, but she’s got a style all her own and knows how to hold her own without losing her cool. (Endearingly enough, that’s the first thing YH would lose in moments of crisis. Think: Bridezilla’s poor ex-minion-sorority-sister/maid of honor.)
And many thanks to everybody who came and partied with us at the grand opening of 3 Worlds Cafe. PICTURES I TOOK MANY!!! But bad luck, I’ve suffered much this past weekend. The ONE time I was responsible enough to transfer my images almost immediately to my hard drive for a good long blog post, MY COMPUTER CRASHES. AND TAKES EVERYTHING ALONG WITH IT.
Lucky for me, Natasha and Roy were on hand with their iPhones and took some good shots.
To give a brief rundown of the event: aside from being a rolicking good time for all (Jefferson High School, Dole and Kogi), it was also a 2-year commitment of passion from Roy Chulo Choi, who worked assiduously with Dole to help bring fresh fruit to the school and worked with empowering students with the knowledge of what it takes to run a small, food-based business. Please do check them out here and show your support.
And it was at this shindig that I ran into Raymond Guzman the III. I may have mentioned him HERE in a blog post. To keep you up to date on things: he’s the dude who’s followed every Roy Choi endeavor and tattooed the logos of Kogi, Chego, Sunny Spot and A-Frame in different areas of his newly married body. Why do I bring up marriage? Because he’d personally invited us to come to his wedding this past month.
But WAIT! There’s more!!
After sitting down and talking with him, I was truly humbled as he revealed to me the reason for his and his new wife’s devotion to all things related to Kogi: it’s the truck that brought them together while they’d hit a rough patch.
I won’t wax poetic about it too long, but here is an excerpt from one of his recent emails:
just a intro to myself. i grew up in east la. my parents split when i was 8 an my mom re-married and we moved to san gabriel when i was 10. since i grew up in the sgv and 55 percent of the establishments and population is asian, i grew quite fond of the community. (my first kiss was a chinese girl. shhhh) i met my wife when we worked at a department store. fast forward to 2009. I heard this big rumor that a korean guy who had a family korean bbq restaraunt married a woman who’s family had a taco truck business. when they got married they decided to marry the food. i thought that was crazy so i investigated. when i discovered the truth i realized that was not the case, but it left me very interested nevertheless.
that was half a decade into our relationship and things were not looking good. one day i asked her if she would be up for trying it, mind you we really were not hanging out at that time and if she did not like the food i would have wrote it off. to my surprise her and i both fell in love with it. i was bummed to not have tried the weekly special which was a sourdough sandwhich with cheese, mayo, and spam. they were out. it was my mission to always try every special from then on. (which I have except for the p funk sliders and i cant remember the other one. since the food forged a rekindle in us hanging out i would ask her if she would be up for trying it again the following week. what she didn’t know was that i would deliberately go to the farthest trucks so she would have to stay in my car longer, thus we would talk more. by 2010 we were back on track. when chego was born i told here we had to go on opening day cause i had a feeling roy would be there. we got there on day two, but he was everything i imagined him to be and then some. the bruce lee of food. a mixed culinary artist wanting to share his craft with the world. in the same fashion as kogi we tried everything on the menu and we only missed two specials, das army boot, and the adobo bowl. (please bring back the elvis pie!)
so the time came and i asked roy if he would let me propose to my fiance [at Chego]. he said yup. the rest is history. kogi has changed our lives. everytime there is a midnight movie showing we always show up with kogi, i always have friends of friends texting me that they are in a kogi line and they want to know what to order. sometimes we would go to alibi to get the kogi special, then to chego to get the chego special, then to aframe to get churros and a vietnamese coffee. i love your blogs and look forward them every month and i still have the love letter when you were briefly sending those out. much love ray
Okay. So yes, my heart was melting for many different reasons. Yes, I was moved that our truck held so much meaning for his relationship to his wife. Yes, I was moved by the fact that somehow Roy had become a symbol of something of legend and something worth believing in. Yes, I was moved by the fact that he’s checked in more times at the Kogi truck than any mayor or shining leader of FourSquare could ever even begin to imagine. But above all, he really shows what it is to be a true fan — and no, it’s not about the tattoos or the proposal at Chego or the fact that he’s read enough of my obscure blog posts to recall old topics from memory.
It’s about taking an experience [us], and turning it into a profound symbol of loving devotion[his decade-long relationship with his wife].
Listening to his story, his love letter to us, I had an epiphany: that whatever celebrity we deify or whatever brand we become diehard cult fanatics of, it’s not the object of love/fixation that’s great. The greatness comes from the level of devotion and dedication we give to that which we love/fixate on. Basically, the expression of our inner fan is an expression of our most passionate selves.
And so, the Kogi truck is just a foil. And the Roy he’s deified as the Bruce Lee of food is a myth. And one powerful enough to inspire something grand in Ray.
And did we ever make it to the wedding? I did! I totally popped by!!
And wouldn’t you know, I was just floored by the most exquisite vintage-inspired wedding gown I’d ever seen on not-the-internet. AND SHE MADE IT HERSELF.
And as a sweet, heartfelt epilogue to Ray’s impassioned letter, came one from the not-so-mystery wifey, Sandra KT Guzman:
This is KT, well what can i say that my husband has not said already. Its true, we are very fond of everything Roy cooks and all the restaurants hold a special place in our hearts because its what brought us together. I did not know that Raymond drove to the furthest trucks in order to keep me in the car longer so we could talk more but i am very glad he did because now we are back on track, very much in love and very happy…I know it means a lot to my husband since he is the one that found out about Roy and all his new restaurants, i mean the man is getting tattoos for crying out loud But i know how much it means to him, well to both of us.
Thank you for loving my dress 🙂
I think I’ve fallen in love. And her name is KT. But seriously, guys, from her I learn that true love is more than a funny feeling and elaborate ploys to get the object of your affection to stay in the car 45 minutes longer than is necessary! Her words are sweet and her love is real.
Many blessings from the Kogi blog to Ray and Sandra/KT. (( H U G )) May you both have a lifetime of joy and sweetness together. I, on behalf of Kogi, am truly honored and humbled that we somehow became quite the fixture in your inspiring love story. Much love and many thanks.
SPEAKING OF LOVE AND THANKS — major shout out to Stacey Rickels of Beverly Hills. Thank you so, so very much for your heartfelt, handwritten card. Chego West misses you dearly, and I hope it’s not too much of a drive to pay Alibi Room a visit for an old Chego bowl. I know it’s not QUITE the same, but give us some time. Bowl by bowl, the entire menu of Chego may return someday soon to the west side.
And, since we’re on the topic of fan-demonium, I’d like to give a big ups to the recently released JGold piece on Chego Chinatown.
I still remember the first time he wrote an article on our fam in the LA Weekly, anointing us the Korean Taco Justice League, so my heart always feels a little warm and fuzzy whenever I see a newly written piece by our local hero. But it’s funny, when you’re kinda sort of a fan. You’re either someone admirable like Ray and KT who come running over with smiles and open arms, or you become some weirdo like myself where you try to say something to convey that you feel nothing but love for him, but totally stress out because suddenly a girl like me, a girl who can easily churn out 2,000-word blog posts, is suddenly unable to say anything interesting or of substance. In my defense, I was told that the photographer and not @thejgold would be coming that day, that @thejgold had already come by several times and probably wouldn’t be coming again. So I was taken by surprise. And when I am surprised, I become the most un-adorable dork ever.
In fact, adorkability flees from the vicinity and all this girl can do is grin like a creeper, say hello, say thank you, and then say hello and thank you again 400 times in 30 minutes. I intend to say something helpful and/or fresh every time I approach him, but I suddenly talk Pokemon. Except instead of saying “Pika-pi!-pikachu! Pika, pika!”, I say, “Hi! Thanks so much for coming! Can I get you anything? And hello, by the way! For coming, thank you so very much. You must need something. No? Nothing? Not since the 2 minutes ago that I’ve spoken to you? Oh, okay, then. Well, thanks for coming. And let me know if you need anything.”
I shall, for the record, say that he and all of his friends and colleagues were nothing but kindly patient with my poke-speak and pretended every time I asked them if I could get them something and thanked them for coming, that it was being asked for the first time. Man, where is my inner Raymond Guzman III when I need him the most?
Anyway. Read the piece. I shall post it on my wall. With all the others. ::creepy smile::
Love and tacos,