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Roy Choi to receive honorary doctor of fine arts degree from CSUF

Cal State Fullerton alumnus Roy Choi is a restaurateur and New York Times best-selling author.
(Travis Jensen)
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Through the years Roy Choi has grown accustomed to answering to the title of “chef,” but after May 22 the restaurateur and author will have to get used to being called “doctor.”

The Cal State Fullerton alumnus and Kogi BBQ food truck owner will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree during the university’s College of Business and Economics Commencement ceremony at Titan Stadium, where he will also be the guest speaker.

“I’m excited and honored to accept this honorary doctorate from the Cal State University system,” said Choi. “I hope it can inspire these Fullerton Titan graduates and future entrepreneurs to embrace the challenges ahead with wisdom and patience.”

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While Choi is mostly associated with Los Angeles, due partly to his New York Times best-selling memoir and cookbook titled “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food,” he also has strong ties to Orange County.

Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea, but his family moved to the United States in 1972, living in Los Angeles and later Villa Park. His family owned Silver Garden, an Anaheim Korean restaurant for three years, where his mother made a kimchi so popular, the family packaged it and sold it locally. In ’94, Choi graduated from CSUF with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, but his obsession with Emeril Lagasse’s “Essence of Emeril” inspired him to move to New York to pursue a culinary career. Choi graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to work at three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Bernardin as well as Hilton hotels.

Choi found notoriety in 2008 when he partnered with fellow Titian alumnus Mark Manguera and food journalist Caroline Shin-Manguera to launch gourmet Korean Mexican taco truck Kogi BBQ. After consulting on the 2014 film, “Chef,” Choi partnered with Jon Favreau for the Netflix series “The Chef Show” and is also the host of “Broken Bread,” an Emmy Award-winning PBS SoCal series co-produced by KCET and Tastemade. In March, Choi launched Tacos Por Vida, his first L.A. restaurant debut since 2016 where he serves street-style tacos and burritos from a pop-up tent in Palms.

“Roy Choi’s impact on the culinary world is unparalleled, and it’s an honor for Cal State Fullerton to recognize his achievements with an honorary doctorate degree. His innovative approach to food and his dedication to social causes have inspired and delighted many,” said Cal State Fullerton president Sylvia Alva. “We’re proud to call him one of our own.”

Cal State Fullerton is the largest university in the CSU system, with 13,347 Titans in the college’s 2024 graduating class. The commencement for the school’s 11,390 undergraduates and 1,957 graduate students will be spread over 12 in-person ceremonies held over four days, May 20 through 23. The campus is expecting 120,000 attendees to turn out for the ceremonies.

Choi expressed confidence in the graduates’ ability to make a difference post-graduation. “As they progress through life with the tools they gained from their coursework matched with the real-world experiences they’ll acquire, they will break down barriers in their industries and change the world,” he said.

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