cover image L.A. Son

L.A. Son

Roy Choi. HarperCollins, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06220263-5

With driving metaphors coming fast and furious throughout this memoir cum cookbook, there is no doubting and no pulling away from Choi’s gritty embrace of L.A.’s mean streets. Starting with his childhood immigration from Korea and his family’s constant upheaval and relocation across South Central, through West Hollywood, and into a house once owned by baseball great Nolan Ryan in Orange County, Choi learns the restaurant business, as well as the jewelry business, at his parents’ apron strings, before falling in with a rough crowd as a teen. Typical of Choi’s 90 m.p.h. stream-of-consciousness, he recalls, “Step up in a fight, drop three hits of acid... go eat, rob a store, babysit your kid? Sure. Let’s go.” His taste for kimchi and dumplings give way to a taste for crack and gambling, but a happy ending is served up as Choi emerges relatively unscathed by his vices, lucks into an education at New York’s Culinary School of America, and finally finds his groove back in Los Angeles as the kingpin of Kogi BBQ Taco Trucks. A total of 60 recipes are included, dropped in like mile markers across his life’s story. There are the twice-cooked duck fat fries he loved as a kid, the kung pao chicken he ate with his crew, and the dishes, such as broiled halibut with soy glaze, that came with maturity. Doe Coover, Doe Coover Agency. (Nov.)