For the most part, the recent article in Time magazine this week on Roy Choi of Kogi and the food truck phenomenon did not reveal anything new. But there was one thing in it that confirms something that I've long suspected: Kogi got the idea for their Korean tacos from a food blogger.
The article states:
“It doesn't really matter that gourmet food trucks were busting out in American cities a few years before Choi parked his first food truck, in November 2008. Or that short-rib tacos weren't even his idea. (A former co-worker's sister-in-law, Alice Shin, had read about a homemade version on a food blog and, as Kogi's publicist, helped hype them through masterful Twitter and website work, which turned the truck's mysterious whereabouts into a hipster happening.) Choi's amazing food has become one of the movement's signature successes. Kogi made $2 million in revenue in its first year, on checks averaging $13 per person. It has given rise to a number of copycat Korean-taco trucks and inspired the Baja Fresh chain to add short-rib tacos to its menu.”
And who was this food blogger? One of the originals: Dylan of Eat Drink and Be Merry, whom I have met and who you might have seen on the L.A. episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.
On January 29, 2007, Dylan wrote about how he stumbled into making Korean tacos during one of many BBQ gatherings he and friends hosted in college. They depleted the carne asada before the tortillas ran out, but had plenty of kalbi left on the grill. When they put the two ingredients together, it was kismet. Recalling those earlier experiments, Dylan replicated the recipe for the post.
As a joke to precede his blog article, he superimposed some Korean script over a picture of a taco truck and playfully called it Kim's Tacos. He closed his now prophetic post somewhat ruefully:
“Would these do well in the LA/Koreatown area? Probably not. Bandini of Great Taco Hunt would probably look at me like I'm crazy. Hey! Guys like weird food. We like Yoshinoya – girls don't! But, one day, if you happen to see a shoddy taco truck running on one spare tire, spitting out black exhaust with Korean & Spanish written on it… it's probably yours truly. So help me pay my rent! Thanks for reading.”
Almost immediately after he hit the Publish button, the comments quickly came. At first, most, including me, saw the picture and thought that he had found a real Korean taco truck and got very excited.
This is what I wrote as soon as I saw the post:
That's so wrong, it's right. For a second I thought that was an actual Korean Taco Truck. I can see no reason why it couldn't work!
Tokyoastrogirl said, “You need to open up the KoreMexi taco truck- that taco looks good!”
Then Eddie Lin exclaimed, “DJ Dee, mashin' that mex 'n chee!! Tear it up!! Actually, I thought that was a real truck too. Don't tease a weird food lover like that. Cold. Can't wait till Monday. Only on Da Travel Channel!!”
Eddie was referring to the No Reservations episode that Dylan would soon be featured on that week in 2007.
So the next time you bite into a Kogi short rib taco or its many imitators, remember that it started with a blogger. A blogger named Dylan.