How the LA3C Music and Food Festival Broke the Mold

Photos by Ira Edelman

Ten years ago, I found my love of hospitality operating an entirely student-run coffee shop and performance venue with twenty friends on campus at USC. When I wasn’t in class or behind the bar, I was taking the Metro across LA, shadowing my favorite chefs, restaurateurs, and culinary heroes. Among them was Joey Rubin, Culinary Curator and Owner of F&B Agency, Parade. His community-centered approach, connecting the dots in LA’s underground food culture through pop-ups and events, was brewing long before we had the vocabulary for it. 

With Rubin as a mentor over the last decade, I’ve gotten to see the industry through his eyes and add my own flavor along the way. We’ve worked together on countless projects, reimagining the F&B experience at festivals and gatherings worldwide, and evolving food culture towards his vision, one that resonated with me from the very beginning. It’s this collaborative, creative, and grassroots culture that made way for Biite Club— a platform for the drop culture of food that hosts weekly out-of-the-box culinary experiences with emerging talent across the city. Next on the docket was LA3C, a music & food festival in the historic core of Downtown LA featuring performances by the likes of Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus, to name a few. As an Angeleno born and bred, this one hit close to home. 

The 3 “C’s” in LA3C stand for “Communities Creating Culture.” Add a fourth “C”— Culinary — for a spot-on description of both producing partners, Biite Club and Parade, not to mention the 30+ chefs and collaborators who brought the food program to life. Over the course of three days, our teams transformed a DTLA parking lot into the “Marketplace on Main." The beating heart of the festival was an outdoor culinary village where the central kitchen pavilion played host to LA’s most exciting food concepts. From driveway popups to James Beard nominees, thirty chefs rotated through 854 Main St. in seventy-two hours. Right down the street, the Ace, Orpheum, and Los Angeles Theater lit up with performances by some of the best jazz musicians and poets of our time. 

So, you’ve got a parking lot the size of a football field to tell the story of LA food, how do you choose who makes the cut? Our initial conversations spanned from the Venice boardwalk to La Puente, Sherman Oaks, and Long Beach. It became clear that LA is not only one of the top food cities, but also a city comprised of many food cities. We quite literally took out the map and curated it based on geography. As Jonathan Gold pointed out in the LA Weekly’s “The Year I Ate Pico Blvd,” if you move through zip codes on the ground, you inevitably encounter the food cultures, stories and flavors that deserve center stage. As Joey Rubin said about LA3C, “If you know anything about graffiti, this is an ‘all city’ program.” ‘All city’ is graffiti speak to describe who’s reached city-wide status. Rubin loves analogies.

And he’s right, the street-level approach yields a very different result than picking off of “Best of LA” lists or Instagram followings. What we created that weekend was a kaleidoscope of real LA food culture, a mixed bag of longstanding LA establishments à la Quarters Korean BBQ and Valerie Confections, award-winning emerging voices such as Bridgetown Roti and Bub & Grandma’s, and backyard operations like Ek’ Balam, Rubie, and Campo e Carbon, many of whom had never done a festival service before. The one common thread beyond the city of LA: each vendor was a 'fortified food operator.' They were 'for lifers' who may or may not have a website or Instagram strategy, but run a damn good service, and have a lot of fun doing it.

 This first-of-its-kind culinary village transformed the food festival experience from the inside out, trading in the typical 10x10 vinyl tents for an eight-station open air kitchen pavilion custom-built to host a rotating lineup of LA’s all-star talent from all over the city, at scale. We had Chef Kim Prince, Nashville Hot Chicken royalty, frying whole oyster mushrooms while Chefs Diego Argoti of Estrano and Johnny Lee of Pearl River Deli slung green curry Biang Biang noodles and orange chicken wrapped in scallion pancakes. Simon Seafood, a Mexican Marisco truck, teamed up with sushi pop up Soosh! to send spicy tuna tostadas and ceviche- topped crispy rice down a conveyor belt for Biite Club’s 8-seat revolving “Oaxaca to Osaka” sushi bar. Questlove, Dan the Automator, and Moodymann were on deck just a few feet away.

The morning after LA3C, the Marketplace became a parking lot once again. It was like it had never happened. Lying in bed, exhausted and still buzzing, Rubin sent an aerial shot of the Marketplace to our culinary team’s group chat. “We made that.” We, the culinary team, and the whole city of LA. 


30 dishes that tell the story of LA— the food city of food cities.  

Baryo: Filipino soul food with a SoCal vibe 

Chef: Eugene Santiago 

Neighborhood: Long Beach 

Dish: Cinnamon Carioca (fried mochi balls) with Coconut Jam

Wanderlust Creamery: Artisan ice cream inspired by global travels

Founder: Dana Borlongan

Neighborhood: Glendale 

Dish: Sticky Rice + Mango

Leonardo’s Pasta Bar: Homemade pasta in the flavors and colors of East LA 

Chef: Stephen Trujillo

Neighborhood: Whittier

Dish: Arancini with Black Truffle Mole

Bridgetown Roti: A love letter to West Indian street food

Chef: Rashida Holmes

Neighborhood: East Hollywood

Dish: Honey Jerk Turkey Leg

Campo e Carbon: A Mexican-inspired live fire restaurant in a La Puente backyard 

Chef: Ulysses Gálvez

Neighborhood: La Puente

Dish: Kimchi Carnitas

Estrano x Pearl River Deli: 

Pearl River Deli: A new wave of Cantonese comfort classics 

Chef: Johnny Lee

Neighborhood: Chinatown

Estrano: Alleyway “Street Pasta” by LA’s King of Chaos Cooking

Chef: Diego Argoti

Neighborhood: Echo Park

Dishes: BBQ Pork Fried Rice Stuffed Quail, Orange Chicken Scallion Pancake Wrap 

Ek’ Balam: Traditional home cooked Yucatan cuisine served in a Montebello backyard

Chef: Juan Chan 

Neighborhood: Montebello 

Dish: Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Yum Sະlut: An exploration of Lao refugee cuisine 

Chef: Tharathip “Thip” Soulisak 

Neighborhood: Chinatown 

Dish: Nem Kao Crispy Rice Salad Lettuce Wraps

Bee Taqueria: Home of the famous Taco-omakase

Chef: Alex Carrasco

Neighborhood: Culver City 

Dish: Huitlacoche Empanada

Quarters KBBQ: LA’s OG Korean BBQ Institution

Neighborhood: Koreatown 

Dish: Bulgogi Burrito

Simón Seafood x Soosh!

Simón Seafood: A fine-dining approach to Mexican Seafood truck

Chef: Francisco Aguilar 

Neighborhood: Silverlake

Soosh!: In-home premium sushi experiences

Chef: Jazmin Valte and Brian Ogawa

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Dishes: Aguachile on Crispy Rice, Hamachi Ceviche on Crispy Rice

Wendy Zeng: Homey Sichuan Cuisine by a Chopped 420 Champion

Neighborhood: Mt. Washington

Dish: Mapo Tofu Poutine

A’s BBQ: Smoked meats and Smashburgers with a Chicano Soul 

Neighborhood: East LA

Dish: Mac & Rajas


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