It all began with a large, bright pink food truck roaming the streets of Boulder and Denver, CO in 2010. Today, Rayme Rossello, owner of Comida Restaurant Group, operates the Comida Food Truck, the Cantinas, and is now getting ready to open her third brick-and-mortar restaurant in Colorado. It's a busy and exciting time for Rossello, and we couldn't be more proud of her success!
In the interview below, Rayme shares about her experience in the food service industry, talks about the importance of living in the present and offers some tips and hard truths about operating an all-season food truck.
And if you haven't stopped to try some of Rayme's diverse, fresh, and flavorful Comida Mexican cuisine yet, be sure to watch the video below. We have a pretty good feeling you won't be able to pass it up the next time you are in Colorado.
What has your journey been like up to this point, and how did you get to where you are today?
I started working in restaurants when I was 15 growing up in New York City. I waited tables at a place called Teacher’s Too. It was a busy neighborhood joint that served up a pretty good cheeseburger and a proper NYC brunch on the weekends. From there, I continued pursuing my dream of becoming an actress (read: I honed my serving/hospitality skills while waiting tables).
At 25, I had a meal that changed my life. Somewhere over the 9 courses and 4 hours, I realized that restaurant life was the life I wanted. At 28, I partnered with a woman named Pam Proto to open Proto’s Pizza. By 2007, we had opened five locations together, and it was time for me to move on and grow some more. After a painful but important learning experience, I started Comida in 2010.
Comida Restaurant Group consists of one food truck, two restaurants, and a third brick-and-mortar restaurant on the way. Was it always your dream to grow the business into what it is now?
No. I live pretty firmly planted in the present. I can’t say I ever dreamed about how Comida would grow or what it would become. Saying yes to new opportunities as they arise allows me to dream a little as they come to fruition. Other than that, there’s too much of life and work that is real and good to spend much time dreaming.
Tell us a little bit about your newest restaurant?
The newest Comida is in a project called The Stanley Marketplace. It covers roughly 3500 square feet of the 140,000 square feet of The Stanley’s entire footprint. The bones of Comida always remain the same with each new brick-and-mortar. The colors and textures change a bit with each new space, while the culture and brand carry through. Since signing on with the Stanley, I have been really excited to be a part of the awesome group of Merchants that the project will contain. The Stanley is all about Community, something Comida has always thrived on in each of its two prior locations.
What types of challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome these?
There are so many things I could share here, but the main challenge has always been my own fear. Getting up every day and putting my right foot forward, trusting myself and surrounding myself with great people, these are the things that help me overcome it.
On a more tangible level, I would say learning that food trucks were illegal in Boulder County and that the city was unsupportive of their existence after spending $65,000 to outfit a food truck plus more to build a commissary. That was a pretty big challenge. The rub was that until I actually showed up and parked the truck on a city street, there was no ordinance or explanation that the city or county could give me that accounted for this truth. The city had no real answers until I parked on Pearl Street. Then, they quickly answered with “if you park here and try to sell food to the public again we will shut you down, take away your license…” but I had been given no license. Yeah, so that was a challenge.
But I am a solution driven individual, and as with most challenges, there was a solution that came out over time. In the time it took for the city to create a food truck ordinance, the best solution for Comida was to open a restaurant. That was one of those great opportunities to say YES!
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Learning from my mistakes and never giving up.
Who got you most excited about cooking?
My friend’s and family that were always so encouraging when I cooked for them.
What is a favorite comfort dish that reminds you of home?
Chicken Pot Pie.
What is your favorite dish on Comida's menu?
Stella’s Griddled Pork Taco. It’s simple and delicious. The pork is juicy and tender. The juices ooze out onto the griddle as it cooks, and they caramelize and create a flavor that makes my mouth water as I write about it.
What is a new ingredient, cooking style or food trend that you are excited about right now?
I love to read about the culinary craziness that is happening in our American South right now. So many chefs are taking the bones of southern comfort food and changing the way we expect those comforts delivered. It’s exciting for sure. I wish I had the time to take a road trip and just eat my way from North Carolina all the way over to New Orleans. Some day.
How do you continue to set yourself apart from the competition?
By being ourselves and not worrying about the competition.
What advice do you have for those looking to start up a restaurant/food truck?
First: Go and spend at least 5 years working in restaurants or on food trucks. If at the end of those 5 years food trucks are still a hot thing, then maybe consider doing that. Operating a food truck is a miserable way to make a living, though, unless you have a restaurant to support it through the winter months. Even then, it’s no cake walk. This industry is not for the faint of heart. It can be a long, slow haul to make it out from under the loans and debt we create when we start up. And if you have partners, that cake gets cut in half’s and quarter’s quickly.
Second: I have always believed that spending less on opening and creating something that makes people want to come back again and again, something that makes people crave it, is the way to go. No one goes back to a restaurant again and again because the bathrooms you spent $150,000 on are cool. They go for your food, and they go for the service. They go because they feel great when they are there and they come back when we remember them.