Daniel Patterson (centre) at MAD, Copenhagen.

Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi take on McDonald's

At René Redzepi’s MAD event, Coi's founder and a food truck star reveal plans to bring real food into inner cities

Copenhagen’s MAD symposium is a great place to pick up on new ideas. The event, founded by the Noma chef René Redzepi, and now in its fourth year, serves as a kind of TED conference for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ crowd. This year’s MAD, which ran 24-25 August, was co-curated by Alex Atala, and featured gastronomic philosophers, live soba noodle displays, buttermilk ice creams and much discussion of this year’s topic: ‘what is cooking?’

Plenty of the ideas outlined will shape the dining experiences of those lucky enough to eat at Noma, DOM or Momofuku; however, one scheme launched at the weekend should benefit a far less fortunate clientele.

We’ve written about the Coi chef Daniel Patterson’s philanthropic work before. Patterson backs the Cooking project, non-profit, community-based organisation that aims to teach kids and young adults in the Bay Area the basics of food sourcing and preparation


One of The Cooking Project's pupils, and a bowl of Patterson's Simple Vegetable Curry
One of The Cooking Project's pupils, and a bowl of Patterson's Simple Vegetable Curry

Now, the Californian chef intends to reach out to similar communities, with a restaurant that will serve inner-city diners quality food, while giving a little back to the community.

The scheme, called loco’l (yes, that first 'L' is lower-case, branding fans), is being launched with the LA food truck chef Roy Choi, best known for the Korean-Mexican mobile taco outlet, Kogi, and should open its first restaurant in Los Angeles next spring, with a San Franciscan branch a few months later. The pair will develop the menu and work with like-minded entrepreneurs, such as SF’s Tartine bakery, which will supply hole-grain, long-fermented buns. They haven’t said much more about loco’l’s food, other than it will be tasty, healthy, sustainable, multicultural, and will represent America. Moreover, Patterson and Choi’s new venture aims to serve up more than good food in poor neighbourhoods.

In their initial mission statement, published on MAD’s site, the pair see loco’l “as a gathering place which everyone can use in a different way, and where everyone can feel comfortable.” They go on: “We can create workshops and bring in instructors to use the spaces as classrooms for yoga, meditation, art, wellness. Pay our staff good and treat them well. Create a culture of hospitality and caring in everyone who works there. Work with young artists to create kids toys but also to spread culture through their art.”


Roy Choi at MAD, Copenhagen
Roy Choi at MAD, Copenhagen

Interestingly, they say that they’re willing to locate the chain in both upscale malls and next to highways, yet they stress that “we will also open in the inner city areas where there are only big corporate chains, places where you will never see real food or high-quality operators.”

A healthy diet is rarely more expensive than an unhealthy one. The link between low incomes and dietary problems is as much a cultural one as economic problem. It’s heartening to see someone like Patterson – who’s never lacked vision – propose something on this scale. For more on the venture, go here. For a better understanding Patterson and his distinct outlook, buy a copy of Coi here.