Los Angeles, CA

Liv a Lil - The Cultural Food Collab We All Need

Paul Feinstein

Liv a LilCredit: Ken's Ramen

It often feels like our world has never been more polarized. Every day, Twitter and other social platforms explode with vitriol, hate, misinformation, and disinformation. Every issue is debated to its most extreme degree, whether it’s cancel-culture, geo-political conflicts, gun rights, or cultural appropriation.

That’s why it’s refreshing when something goes viral for being wholesome and good. And that something is Liv a Lil.

Started by two incredibly energetic and ever-positive friends, Olivia Sui and Lily Rosenthal, Liv a Lil (a near portmanteau of the duo’s names) is an anecdote to cultural conflict. The company’s aim is to bring two disparate cultures together using food as the catalyst for understanding and change.

Olivia Sui and Lily RosenthalCredit: Cameron Jordan

To give a quick example, the first cultural food exchange was a Jewish/Chinese hybrid as the team collaborated with LA fried chicken favorite Luther Bob’s to make Sichuan hot chicken sandwiches on challah, with mini latkes, and bottled Mai Tai’s – and served it all outside the classic Genghis Cohen restaurant in West Hollywood. All the proceeds of the event went to Stop AAPI Hate.

First Liv a Lil CollaborationCredit: Olivia Sui

But it wasn’t just a proliferation of awful current events that brought this collaboration together. Sui and Rosenthal have this in their blood.

“I grew up in Arcadia my entire life, and Arcadia, if you don't know, is predominantly Asian. So, that was very convenient for my childhood because I was like the weird one, but honestly, I wasn't [weird] there. Everyone looked like me. However, in high school, there was still this hierarchy where if you’re white, you’re the cool ones.” said Sui.

Sui, for those not in the know, channeled her “weirdness” into a successful acting career where she’s currently doing sketch comedy on a wildly popular YouTube channel called Smosh. And with her following, Sui felt a responsibility to her community and wanted to figure out a way to help.

“During the pandemic, a lot of Asian hate crimes started surfacing and at the same time I have this platform and a voice. A lot of young Asian American teens look up to me for some sort of reason. And the pandemic really put things into perspective – I know how racism feels, I know I love food, I really care about giving back to the community and being a good role model for people who look like me, and I thought I could combine these passions into a charitable thing and make an event out of it.” Sui explained.

Rosenthal, a great actor and writer, is also deeply embedded in the LA food world. But as she looked around, she realized she wasn’t doing anything with the access she had.

“I grew up being surrounded by food people and chefs, and all these experiences that were all centered around food. And I just was kind of there, but I wasn't adding anything to it, you know? I was just eating it all – that's all I was doing. I loved it, obviously, but I wanted to do more.” said Rosenthal.

The duo’s first cultural food collaboration was an immediate success, selling out the entire run of sandwiches online in a matter of hours. It was then that they realized, this concept can be something bigger than just combining Sui’s Chinese ancestry with Rosenthal’s Jewish background. Cultural food collaborations, especially in Los Angeles, can be limitless.

Sichuan Hot Chicken Sandwich on ChallahCredit: Olivia Sui

“We wanted to do this initially because we love bringing cultures together. And how fun would it be if we could partner different restaurants together around the city. LA is such a diverse place for culture and food, and the best way to get to know a culture is through their food. So, we thought, why don't we take restaurants and have them make something together?” Rosenthal explained.

For Sui and Rosenthal’s next cultural collaboration, they’re bringing together the barbecue geniuses at Maple Block Meat Co. in Culver City and the out-of-this-world ramen from Ken’s Ramen in East Hollywood.

Part of mashing cultures together is letting the chefs figure out how to bring the best out of each other with the help of Sui and Rosenthal. For this next collaboration, they’re going to be combining Maple Block’s brisket with Ken’s Tsukemen ramen (which is a dipping ramen).

“So, we're gonna use Ken's ramen and his broth, his 30-hour chicken broth, which is called Paitan broth. And we were thinking about mixing the Paitan broth with the Ken's barbecue sauce into the dipping broth. You dip the brisket in there, you dip the ramen in there, and it's just gonna be so freakin' good.” said Sui.

The altruism of the event finally comes together as each of the restaurant collaborators gets to choose the charity that they’ll be giving the proceeds to. Portions of the proceeds for the Maple Block/Ken's Ramen event will also be going to Stop AAPI Hate.

Sui and Rosenthal aren’t done, though, as they’re already planning their third collaboration. “One we have coming up is with Jazz from Jitlada and Genet from Meals By Genet that will be coming together to make a Thai/Ethiopian collaboration dish. They're both incredible women and two giant staples of LA, so we thought that would be a fantastic duo,” said Rosenthal.

In a world where it seems like everyone is at each other’s throats, it’s a nice salve for these two incredible Angeleno’s to use their substantial profiles to not only give back, but bring people together.

So, if you want to experience something new, something fun, and something that’s charitable and melds cultures in the most delicious ways, go Liv a Lil and help bring this fractured world back together one incredible meal at a time.

Thursday, June 3 at Maple Block Meat Co. from 6-10pm

3973 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

DM @golivalil on Instagram to order before it sells out!

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Paul Feinstein has been writing and editing in Los Angeles and around the world for more than 20 years. He has written travel guides to LA, Bangkok, Tokyo, Florence, and Barcelona and has written for myriad publications and media companies including Travel + Leisure, Fodor’s Travel, La Cucina Italiana, Departures, Lonely Planet, Fine Dining Lovers, MyRecipes, Time Out, Culture Trip, TBS, FOX, Disney, Stacker, and NBC/Universal. An avid traveler, Paul has been to more than 55 countries, lived in Israel, and is particularly obsessed with Italy and Japan.

Los Angeles, CA

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