Chefs from Burmese Please and Bites and Bashes, doing some research and development for their upcoming pop-up dish for Pop Off LA // All Photos Courtesy Pop Off LA

EventsLos Angeles

LA Chefs on Why They’re Teaming Up to Fight AAPI Hate

By

Across the country, chefs are taking a stand against the steep rise in hate-related incidents against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the United States: They’re hosting takeout dinners in D.C., San Francisco, New York, and Detroit to raise money for organizations like Heart of Dinner and Stop AAPI Hate. They’re feeding those in need in their local communities. They’re donating some of their profits to the #StopAsianHate movement.

Justin Pichetrunsgi

And in Los Angeles this month, which also happens to be AAPI Heritage Month, they’re coming together to create unique, one-of-a-kind takeout experiences for Angelenos.

“Our AAPI community is under attack, and LA chefs are coming together to amplify our voices and fight racism with unity,” says Shirley Chung, chef-owner of Ms. Chi Café. “We are done with the ‘model minority’ stereotype. We are going to be louder and louder. Our journey is long, but we will never back down from fighting for our rights. We belong here.”

“We have assimilated quietly for too long while other people fight,” says Justin Pichetrunsgi, partner, Anajak Thai. “Underneath our obedient smiles are clenched teeth. Our food has always been the lobby for our identity, but now we also have our voice.”

From May 16 to 23, more than 20 different LA chefs, including Chung and Pichetrunsgi, are teaming up to create mashup pop-up takeout meals as part of the inaugural Pop Off LA event, hosted by the LA Food Gang, a Clubhouse group founded by Bites & Bashes president Crystal Coser and food writer Andy Wang. Think Kraprao lasagna, LA x Beijing meat pies with pork verde sausage, and Filipino longanisa pizza. Participating restaurants include Burmese Please, Crafted Kitchen, Kuya Lord, Speak Cheezy, and Tacos 1986, among others. All events are takeout only, with the exception of the May 23rd event at Majordomo, which will offer patio seating.

For every meal sold for Pop Off LA, a small set donation amount will be added and made to Off Their Plate, a nonprofit that addresses food insecurity by connecting women- and people-of-color-led restaurants with local community organizers. All money raised from Pop Off LA will specifically go toward struggling AAPI-owned restaurants who will be making meals for AAPI-led organizations. Diners also have the option to add an additional donation to Off Their Plate with every purchase they make.

Here, in their own words, are why these chefs and restaurant owners are participating in Pop Off LA, and how they feel about what’s been happening to the AAPI community in Los Angeles and beyond.

Moo’s Craft BBQ’s Andrew and Michelle Munoz with Ms. Chi’s Cafe Shirley Chung and Jimmy Lee // All Photos Courtesy Pop Off LA

Andrew and Michelle Munoz, co-owners, Moo’s Craft BBQ:

“Both of us are born-and-raised Angelenos, and growing up in a city so full of beautiful diversity makes us feel so damn proud to be from Los Angeles. We grew up and still live in the San Gabriel Valley where there’s a large population of our Asian brothers and sisters. It’s very disheartening for us to see the hate that’s been targeted towards the AAPI community. Growing up a minority in this country, this hits close to home for us. … We do BBQ, and one of the most rewarding things in our business is to see people of all walks of life hanging out in line and sharing trays of BBQ. We love the thought of bringing people together one BBQ tray at a time.”

Lydia Lee, co-owner, RiceBox:

“When I look at my 10-month-old son, Ari, it makes me cry thinking that one day he’ll be the target of violence, hatred, and racism because of his ethnicity. As an immigrant family, my parents didn’t know how to handle racism and violence toward our community. We want to raise Ari differently and for him to understand that it’s not OK for racism to exist and that you should be able to speak up and defend yourself when faced with such a situation. What we are doing today is trying to make a difference, and hopefully he will not have to endure what we did growing up.”

Rashida Holmes

Rashida Holmes, chef-owner, Bridgetown Roti:

“Living on the edge of intersectionality, I think people often mistake cries for equality as inauthentic victimhood when, the truth is, we are all standing up and saying, we will no longer let ourselves be victimized without a fight. The status quo has changed, as it always will, and it’s time for all of us to come to terms with our country’s racist foundations. As minorities, we can only do this in solidarity, and I figure conversations over good food are a place to start.”

Royce Burke, chef-owner, Secret Lasagna:

“This cause is important to me not only because the communities under threat are made up of people I care about, but also because the violence and inherent ingrained racism and fear at the heart of it has been created by the culture that I am a part of. I want people who look like me to stop claiming to be colorblind or vehemently insisting they ‘can’t be racist.’ We are all racist. I am racist. I grew up consuming the same media, news, and ideologies that everyone else born white in America did. The prejudices, othering, and fear were programmed into me the same as everyone else.”

Liwei Liao, chef-owner, The Joint Eatery:

“As a first-generation Asian American, the recent rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and attacks targeting our community hits me very personally. These victims could be our grandparents, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties — people whom we deeply care about. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it is that if we come together and foster a healthy community, we can tackle anything. I hope you join me and my fellow chefs to help #StopAsianHate.”


See below for information on each Pop Off LA event taking place from May 16-23 (menus are subject to change). All events are ticketed unless otherwise noted. Tickets for each event can be purchased at LAFoodGang.com.

Every Saturday and Sunday in May (non-ticketed): Sweet Meats LA @ 26 Avenue Market
BBQ pork skewers inspired by Lola

May 16: Ms. Chi Cafe x Moo’s Craft Barbecue at Crafted Kitchen
LA x Beijing Meat Pies With Pork Verde Sausage, served with Ms. Chi Cafe chili crisp

May 16: Secret Lasagna x Anajak at Crafted Kitchen
Kraprao Lasagna

May 16: Bridgetown Roti x RiceBox at Crafted Kitchen
Okra Callaloo With Fried Soft-Shell Crab and RiceBox Porchetta, served with pumpkin choka fried rice dumplings

May 16: Burmese Please x Bites & Bashes at Crafted Kitchen
Burmese Bibimbap with Gochujang and Tea Leaf Dressing

May 16: Seoul Sausage x Parm Boyz at Crafted Kitchen
Thicc Burger (with a KBBQ spicy pork patty), comes with a bag of Korean snack chips

May 16 to 23 (available daily): Kye’s x Paleo Chef Mary Shenouda
Organic Beef-and-Lamb Kofta; Vegan Chickpea Kofta

May 17: The Joint x Mexicali Taco at The Joint
Dry Aged Fish Guy’s Baja Fish Taco Kit with grilled La Paz Kampachi and grilled Ensenada Striped Bass

May 20 (non-ticketed): Kogi BBQ
Special edition menu

May 21: Speak Cheezy x Kuya Lord x RiceBox x Estrano at Dear John’s
Char Siu BBQ Pork Pizza; Filipino Longanisa Pizza; Black Garlic Pizza; Banh Mi Pizza; Mala Stinger; Stinging Netle Biang Biang; Tteok Corzetti; Tocilog; Longsilog

May 21 (non-ticketed): dumpLins pop-up at Civil Coffee
Chicken, Kalbi and Holy Shiitake dumpLins

May 23: Tacos 1986 x Yu Bo at Majordomo
Sichuan Trompo Tacos, Quesadillas, and Sichuan Hot and Sour Cod Tostadas

Virtual events associated with Pop Off LA:

May 15: Virtual Dumpling Party with chef Shirley Chung & My World Chef

May 20: Bing 101 Meal Kit and Virtual Cooking Class with chefs Shirley Chung, Andrew and Michelle Munoz via Goldbelly

Discover More in Local Scene


Crudo e Nudo

Interviews

The Owners of Crudo e Nudo Believe Now Is the Time to Transform Restaurants

By