Just like Goldilocks, chile maker Terri D. Steinberg has tried various sized beds in which to rest her culinary ambitions, but it looks like the latest – a food truck – may be just right.
“I love the food truck. I think it’s fun,” said Steinberg, who first launched Rylee Mac’s in 2008.
The business initially opened in the newly constructed plaza at Florida Road and East Animas Road (County Road 250). Situated in the most prominent corner of the complex, the expansive locale included a fine foods market, a deli and a separate cooking school.
Of all her offerings, Steinberg was best known for her green chile, made with a recipe she learned as a girl from her grandmother back in El Paso, Texas. The popularity of the green chile led her and her chef/business partner, Todd Escudier, to pursue expansion into the wholesale market. Over the next several years, Rylee Mac’s green chile would come to occupy freezer space in more than 125 King Soopers grocery stores across Colorado.
But expansion came with a cost. Logistically, it was not possible to make all the green chile in their Durango location, so they contracted with a co-packer in Denver to produce the product using Steinberg’s recipe. They also found a separate company to distribute it. While this gave them the reach they hoped for, it also reduced their margin. The bottom line: big presence, but not big profits.
Meanwhile, the interminable Florida Road reconstruction project that got underway in 2010 hampered access to their retail space. Covering expenses was a challenge.
“I just spread myself a little too thin,” Steinberg said.
In mid-2012, Rylee Mac’s vacated the Florida Road location. But cooking is as much a part of Steinberg as her petite, slender frame, and it wasn’t long before she had acquired the food truck and was appearing at events around the area. This led her to search for a more permanent spot to park it. For a while, it was in Hermosa near Hermosa Creek Grill. Then in October, they moved the truck to the old Sweeney’s Restaurant property at U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 203. The former restaurant building is now occupied by Acme Healing Center, a marijuana dispensary.
Rylee Mac’s menu includes concessionaire staples but with a Southwestern slant: tacos, Frito pie, Sonoran hot dogs, quesadillas, barbecue brisket and, of course, green chile, which can be eaten as a stew or ladled on something else. She also does breakfast burritos.
In November, the truck moved to the south side of the property to improve its visibility. Now it is well situated to snag hungry skiers making their way up the mountain or north county residents commuting into Durango.
Escudier is still an integral part of the operation, cooking up soups of the day that reflect his Louisiana roots as well as his Southwest Colorado residence.
It’s not the job he signed up for in 2008, but he seems to have enjoyed the twists and turns of the ever-morphing start-up.
“I’ve just kind of kept on going,” he said.
That Steinberg would be undaunted by reinvention is not surprising. She was already on her second career when she started Rylee Mac’s, named after her granddaughter. Previously she spent decades as the owner of a successful local beauty salon. She sold the spot in 2006, and it now houses Signature Salon.
Having navigated the complexities of so many endeavors, Steinberg seems unencumbered by the need to prove herself. So long as she’s in the kitchen, she’s livin’ the dream.
“I loved to cook my whole entire life,” she said.
Fair enough, but how’s the food? To determine this, I trot out a critic known to be both discerning in his tastes and forthright in his opinions – my 9-year-old son. I ordered him up a Frito pie, something he’d yet to encounter in his life.
“On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rank it?” I asked him later.
“I would give it a 10,” he said resolutely.
Not bad, considering the pie he’d really been hoping for was dessert.