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Roy Choi Responds to Zero-Star NY Times Review: “All Minorities Aren’t Criminals”

It’s getting intense around here

A worker at LocoL
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

It’s got to be a tough day to wake up as Pete Wells, the The New York Times restaurant critic currently enduring a hailstorm of negativity after dropping zero stars on upstart fast food model LocoL. The Roy Choi/Daniel Patterson chain with a do-good ethos got rocked yesterday by a lackluster review from the now-roving East Coast critic, but it’s Wells who may have been hit the worst.

Following his 1,000 word review on the Oakland outlet of LocoL, in which he talked about bulletproof glass and Tartine bread, Wells has been forced to duck and cover from a variety of negative backlash in the larger food world. A few examples:

As for Choi, he’s taking the high road. Or, at least, the Positive Mental Attitude road, leaving his normally active Twitter account alone except for one or two cryptic tweets. Instead, Choi took to Instagram to drop the following hammer:

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

A photo posted by Chef Roy (@ridingshotgunla) on

It’s a measured but forceful response, with Choi mostly saying that all of it — the critics, the folks who don’t believe in the model, you name it — is part of the process, and the more you start to agitate people the more you know you’re on the right path. He also makes sure to note that the food is not as bad as Wells seems to think it is, before dropping these few lines:

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.

Go there, indeed. In the meantime, Choi has lots of other projects to keep his nose out of the newspaper (including building more LocoL’s in places that might need them most), not least of which is a new location for his original give-back enterprise 3 Worlds Cafe, which is opening up on 103rd right down the block from LocoL in Watts soon.

Watch: Sampling the menu at LocoL


1950 East 103rd Street, , CA 90002 (323) 642-7704 Visit Website


2216 Broadway, oakland, ca