Koreatown, LA

Bourdain’s Field Notes

LOS ANGELES, April 2013—Good Korean kids grow up to be doctors or lawyers. There are expectations—but what if you’re a bad Korean? What if you become a chef or an artist?

We traveled to Los Angeles to explore Koreatown and what it means to be Korean-American. I meet up with a “bad Korean,” Roy Choi, a chef who managed to harness the strange and terrible power of social media to alert customers where to find his much-loved food trucks. He dropped out of law school, trained at the CIA and Le Bernardin, and then started his ever-growing empire with a purely LA invention: Korean tacos.

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Travel like Bourdain

What does it mean to be Korean‑American? Does one create one’s own world?


K-Town: Angeleno shorthand for Koreatown

“Bad Korean”: A Korean-American who does not conform to stereotypes of their community’s professional aspirations. For example, Roy Choi is a self-professed “bad Korean,” who dropped out of law school to pursue a career as a star chef and restaurateur.

Lowrider: The driver of a customized car with the frame lowered closer to the road. The lowrider is a purveyor of moving street art in parts of Los Angeles—and also a target for cops.

Know Before You Go

Koreatown spans three square miles of Los Angeles. It encompasses a 10-block cluster of businesses and homes including four blocks known as Little Bangladesh, and is also one of the city’s several Central American communities.

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