Chef Roy Choi does not clap back.
Of course the team behind the ambitious, healthy-but-still-cheap-and-supposedly-tasty fast-food venture Locol was going to respond when New York Times food critic Pete Wells panned not just their food but their very concept in a withering review of Locol's Oakland location. I mean, how could they not? The question, instead, was how they would choose to do so. Now we have our answer. Rather than impugn the critic, whose previous takedowns of established fine dining restaurants like New York's Per Se have delighted the public and been wake-up calls to chefs, LA's Roy Choi, who founded Locol with the Bay Area's Daniel Patterson, responded with humility and grace to what could be seen as humiliation. It's a clever move that aligns the business and chefs with the people and places Wells is in a position to needlessly punch down.
In a response written to Instagram, Choi, who is usually known for his hotheaded social media presence, writes that "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." Patterson reposted Choi's statement, allowing it to speak for them both. Also note that Choi, as have many others, interprets the review as being "zero stars," which would be in line with its assessment and tone, but
that's not correct. Correction: No, it is correct. Zero stars. Although Wells hasn't always given stars for national reviews, he does now.
Zero stars. 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." #LocoL #Watts #Oakland
San Franciscans who haven't made the trip to Locol in Oakland will get their chance to judge the food for themselves soon. Locol's next location, in the Tenderloin, is on the way.