These chefs are trying to do the impossible: make fast-food that's as cheap as McDonald's, but healthy, fresh and delicious.
This week, food truck legend Roy Choi and fine dining restauranteur Daniel Patterson hit their $100,000 goal on Indiegogo for "revolutionary fast food" concept, Loco'l. The chefs aim to go beyond the fast-casual and fine-casual efforts of chains like Shake Shack or Chipotle and invent a restaurant that will truly compete with chains like McDonald's in terms of price and customers.
LocoL is a challenge to all other food companies & chefs to lower prices, get in our inner cities, & provide jobs & food. More the merrier.— Papi (@RidingShotgunLA) March 18, 2015
"We fundamentally believe that wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food," reads Loco'l's Indiegogo page. "We believe that the giant corporate force that feeds most of America has degraded from decades of suits maximizing profits."
In keeping with the determination to go head-to-head with existing fast-food chains, the chefs want to open locations serving communities flooded with chains but lacking in high-quality food. The first two locations are planned to open in Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles and the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco in late summer or early fall.
Earlier in March, in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything," Choi wrote, "we don't plan to crush [existing fast-food chains] either, that would be naive. [W]e hope to cook good enough food and make sound ethical decisions to help shape theirs in the future."
If anyone can force McDonald's to change its tactics, Choi and Patterson can. Choi helped inspire the recent food truck crave, bringing affordable Korean tacos on the go to Los Angeles with Kogi BBQ in 2008. Today, he runs a small empire of restaurants including Chego!, A-Frame, Sunny Spot and POT. In 2013, at MAD Symposium in Copenhagen, Choi gave a talk encouraging chefs to use their skills to feed poor and underserved communities, not only those who could afford meals at five star restaurants.
Patterson teamed up with Choi to do just that in 2014, with the pair announcing their concept for Loco'l at the 2014 MAD Symposium. Patterson is best known for founding Coi, an upscale San Francisco restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Of course, serving up high-quality inexpensive food is easier said than done. Choi says that the early dream of a 99 cent burger now seems unfeasible, but has promised that the menu will contain a full 99 cent category, with all food in the $2 to $6 range.
To churn out high-quality foods at low prices, Choi and Patterson have been experimenting with different methods and unconventional ingredients. Check out the video below to see the pair in action, testing recipes for Loco'l.