The Kogi BBQ Truck

(originally posted Aug. 13 2011)

Kogi-Unbelievable creativity

For the benefit of those who may have no idea what a Kogi truck is, allow me to explain this way; it would be as if Emeril LeGasse and Bobby Flay teamed up and bought five or six roach coach catering trucks, stuffed them with their most awesome culinary creations and parked one of them outside your office so that your lunch would be something you would relish and talk about all freaking day.   You would talk about it to your boss, your co-workers, hell, you would call up your mom…the food is that good.  And look at that line in the photo.  Yes, you would stand in it.  You would stand in that line in the broiling noon sun, in a drenching rain storm, in the middle of a tornado alert, in an earthquake.  As long as that truck is there, you will wait.  Why?

Because Kogi makes food that is so unique, so delicious, so unusual and reasonably priced that you will wait along with everyone else, heart racing and salivary glands pulsing because you know that it is so worth it.   The Kogi truck offers certain signature dishes like the short rib taco on a regular basis but there is always a weekly special like this week’s which was their chicken pineapple torta part deux.  Oh my God!!!  Oh my dear God!!!

So now, I can not rest until I snag one of their Chego burgers.  Behold…grass fed beef, pineapple, grilled sweet pickled red onions, cheese, chili sauce, fried shallots, Thai basil, wild arugula, and….coconut mayonnaise.  But let me tell you what happened today when I got to the hallowed Kogi truck.  Sadly, this is a story repeated every day here in Los Angeles.   We arrived at the downtown location a couple of minutes early and parked at a meter one block away and scurried to the truck where a modest line had already formed at 11:25 am.

The Kogi Chego Burger

Just as we placed our order, a police car pulled up along side the truck and without warning, the shutter was brought down on the ordering window.  I walked over to the patrol car to find out what the problem was.  The officer explained that the owners of two desolate sandwich shops across the street had called to complain and they had no choice but to make the truck move on.  People who had already ordered would be permitted to get their food but the rest of the folks behind us were out of luck.

Now, wait a minute.  Across the street, we see two sandwich shops.  Did either of them call the police when the other leased their space on the block?   If they had, would the police have come and shooed the newcomer sandwich shop away?  Is that their job?  Is that their jurisdiction?  You know the answer…absolutely not.  Commercial competition is not a crime so where does the authority come from to support the harassment of the Kogi truck?  Let’s stop here and examine this in a larger context, the context of a destructive national behavior.

When the economy folded in 2008, the Fed threatened a financial Armageddon if we didn’t cough up trillions of dollars which were subsequently and surreptitiously used to prop up many failing dinosaurs like General Motors, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, etc.  Trillions were sent overseas to prop up failing banks and to support over blown real estate prices.

How the hell does this relate to Kogi?  The local regulatory system is propping up failing businesses and trying to keep superior competition on the sidelines by squeezing their profits and their ability to thrive.  When we artificially prop up and protect businesses that fail to thrive (whether it is because they provide an inferior product, or an outmoded product  or because they are corrupt), we stifle innovation and creativity.   We end up squeezing out what we want most dearly;  value, newness,  innovation and problem solving.  We squeeze out the Kogi truck.

The current international economic stagnation is being caused by dead companies refusing to step aside. To add insult to injury, they are creating debt for all Americans in order to create the funny money to slap on their books so that it looks like they are still alive.  Lipstick on a pig; and they put a shotgun to our head to make us buy the lipstick…. for 27 trillion dollars.  Nice.

And here is more stagnation.  The poor Baby Boomers must stay at their jobs longer because the truth of the matter is that just about everybody with an IRA, a 401k or a Keogh, a stock or a mutual fund, a job or a house…all got Bernie Madoffed by October 2008.  Ole  Bernie is simply a flesh and blood metaphor, a personification, of reprehensible behavior at the highest financial levels.  As above, so below.  The bottom line here is that young people can’t find work.  Companies released many millions to the unemployment line all throughout 2009.   Combine this with a scenario where people who were about to retire can not possibly do so.  Now here is the crap cherry on the shit sundae….retirement age people with union or government pensions will retire and start draining pension funds that are already drained.  Here comes more trouble.  Nice.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s time to go stand up for Kogi.  I will go talk to my council person and see what shakes out.  Get on the subscribe list.  I will fill you in on what happens.  Then maybe you’ll get some ideas about what you can do.  And then maybe we can get the country that we want.  We want Kogi.