Roy Choi meets the people actively preserving Latinx cuisine in L.A.'s Chavez Ravine.
In the episode "The Future of Restaurants" Roy Choi breaks bread with chef Wolfgang Puck.
Roy Choi sits down for a heart to heart with the legendary restauratrice and food activist Alice Waters in the episode "From Seed to Table."
Though they exist at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, both Public Enemy rapper Chuck D and Chez Panisse owner and chef Alice Waters appear in the second season of chef Roy Choi's Broken Bread. As different as these icons are, they make sense on Choi's food-centered docuseries, which returns for a second season on January 25 on both Tastemade and PBS station KCET.
The show gamely tackles issues ranging from immigration, regeneratively grown food, seed sovereignty, food as resistance and even the host's role in gentrifying Los Angeles's Chinatown. Choi then stitches these weighty topics together with his deep passion for food, a no-holds-barred personality and engaging discussions with guests including chef Wolfgang Puck and artist Six Sev.
When asked which meeting was more meaningful to him personally — Waters or D — Choi responds with laughter, an F-bomb, and then gives the question far more serious consideration than expected. While meeting with Chuck D "was a moment for my 17-year-old self and the development of my 20-year-old self," Choi finally makes his choice: Waters.
"I found a kindred spirit in Alice, because I sometimes want the world to be this loving, hand-holding place, and usually the world punches me in the nose and says, 'No, we are not a loving, hand-holding place,'" Choi explains. "Talking with Alice, I realized I wasn't alone, that you could be Alice Waters and completely challenge what we have been brought up to believe as far as upward mobility and capitalism."
This kind of thoughtful deep dive is likely part of why the show won both a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award and James Beard Award in 2020. Choi isn't afraid of delving into thorny and complex issues — even when it involves putting himself on the line. In the second season's look at Chinatown, Choi explores the role his own former restaurant Chego might have had in gentrifying the neighborhood and is unafraid to ask others what they think of the part he unwittingly played.
"I was just thinking, why don't we use my story as the template, you know?" Choi says of his decision to put himself squarely in the hot seat. "I had reached a level of maturity in life to be able to confront those things and not be afraid to go back. And I really, honestly care about that neighborhood."
In addition to what Choi laughingly calls the show's beautifully shot "food porn," it's his love for sharing the issues he clearly cares about that make the show surprisingly easy to swallow despite the big issues. "Our objective as a show is to take these topics that are maybe depressingly heavy — a little too much to take on a Tuesday night — and make it entertainment first. I always say it's disguised as a food show. Like with any Trojan horse, we're doing it to get you interested."
Choi smiles puckishly before getting serious. "It's not manipulative in a bad way. It's manipulative in a way of like, listen, I really need you to hear this."
Season one of Broken Bread is available for catchup viewing on Tastemade.com and KCET.org/BrokenBread. PBS Passport and Tastemade+ subscribers will be able to watch all six episodes of the new season starting January 25.
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