When chef Ryan "Ko" Cunningham decided to launch a healthy food truck in Boulder, he didn't have any idea that he had already been part of one. Well, sort of, at least — he was in his mother's womb at the time, soon to be the fourth child of Julianaa Satie and Bill Cunningham, who ran a food truck called Rollin Greens way back in 1981. Turns out this 36-year-old chef's food-filled path wasn't just chance — it was hereditary.
"We didn't know about the family heritage until we started building the truck," says 32-year-old Lindsey Cunningham, Ryan's wife. "His parents told us about the food truck after."
The idea for the business came after Ryan's ten-year stint in California as a personal chef and Lindsey's time as a PR rep for Noodles & Company. The pair had known each other as children in Boulder, and once they were both back in town, they reconnected and started dating.
"We always wanted to start a restaurant together since we live and breathe food," says Lindsey. With advice from her sister, the pair decided a food truck was the way to go. Ryan, who has an architectural background, decided to design his own. "It was a great way to break into the food market, show people what we were capable of, and it wasn't at a high cost."
They called their business Rollingreens, after Ryan's parents' truck, and launched it in May 2015. From the truck, the chef dished out Asian-Mexican fusion foods with a local kick, including jalapeño poppers with sweet chili sauce, curly fries, poblano-stuffed cheeseburgers and chicken tacos with a soft and hard shell that came topped with jalapeño-spinach sauce. All the food was made with ingredients from local farmers and purveyors, such as goat cheese from Haystack Mountain and greens from Cure Organic Farm, among others.
"From day one, we started having success and people loved Ryan's food," says Lindsey. "He is a rustic chef with refined flavors and really caught everyone's attention with his unique spin on food."
Millet tots — like tater tots made with millet seed instead of potatoes — were one of the chef's most successful creations to come out of the truck. They proved so popular that even after the pair retired the truck, they decided to keep making and selling the snack food.
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The choice to use millet in the nutrient-dense tots was influenced by his mother and her cooking, as well as the School of Natural Cookery, a plant-based cooking school in Boulder that Satie started in 1983. "We didn't choose millet, millet chose us," says Lindsey. "It was an ingredient that Ryan grew up with on his dinner table, and he remembered it from childhood. He said, 'Let me put it in a tot form.'"
Once the Cunninghams launched the packaged millet tots, Whole Foods Market was the first to pick up the brand. Now you can find them in three flavors (original sea salt, Italian herb and spicy sweet) at local Whole Foods stores, with a "nacho" bar where the tots are the star — and at various grocery stores across the country.
"We are paying homage to what they created in the 1980s," says Lindsey of Ryan's parents. Instead of running around town chasing a truck, though, customers can now purchase Rollingreens products at the grocery store to take home and make themselves. For now they're focusing on just the millet tots, but Lindsey says they hope to bring more of her husband's dishes to the freezer aisle in the near future.