Finding time to meet Eddie Choi wasn't easy. Running a highly caffeinated business and being the father of twins keeps him busy. Yet we were able to sit down one late morning around the corner from his operation at Blackmarket Bakery to fill in the gaps.
Recount the moment when you realized you wanted to open your own coffee shop.
I went to a farmers market in LA, and a farmer was selling organic coffee beans from Costa Rica. I remember learning from that person about how organic coffee beans are much better quality than regular beans. So I tried to find a coffee shop that uses USDA certified organic beans. I couldn't find one in LA until I heard about Urth Cafe in West LA. I tried their coffee and loved the atmosphere in the cafe. At that moment, I wanted to open my own coffee shop.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
I would have to say plan your meal for the week, and prep them in advance so you know what to make throughout the week.
Favorite places to eat.
I love trying new food. So whenever I hear about some new restaurant, I go to try it out. My favorite place always changes, but currently my favorite is a small kebob place near our shop called Gogo's.
One food you can't live without:
Sushi. I just love the visual aspect of the sushi dish, from the decoration to how they present the sushi. And it's a healthy food you can enjoy with such delicate flavors.
What was your work experience prior to Milk + Honey?
Barista training from Klatch. And worked as a sushi chef/manager in LA (Sak-E and two other restaurants).
Is there a dish you'd like to know how to make?
I would LOVE to learn how to make tom yum kum. A Thailand seafood soup I love.
Your earliest food memory:
Street tacos in LA.
Most undervalued ingredient.
The variety of teas we have. My favorite tea I drink is white coconut creme tea or blooming halo tea.
What were the challenges to opening a storefront, and how did you overcome them?
The hardest thing about opening a store is dealing with permits and getting the right employees that fit Milk + Honey.
Your best recent food find:
Kickin Crab in Costa Mesa. The sauce they add is very addictive.
Where was your most recent meal?
I went to Panera bread and had the Fuji apple salad.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Hard to say, since LA and OC both have really good quality dishes. But if I must choose, I would have to say gourmet burgers.
Tell us about your research in Japan.
I was in Ginza, Tokyo with my father's friend who owned a very small, high-end Japanese sushi restaurant with only about 10 seats. I not only learned about how to make sushi, but how to treat the ingredients with care. And I learned that whatever you're making tastes much better when you care about it. He always told me to make food like you're making it for your family.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten.
Chicken feet. I couldn't finish it.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Waffles or oatmeal with honeycomb. I'm into raw honeycomb these days. It's so good for you, and tastes awesome with oatmeal.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Unsweetened Matcha green tea latte with two shots of espresso and rice milk. Yes, I made it. He liked it, although I'm not sure if he was for real or kidding [laughs].