We are thrilled to be connecting with Mathew Yamali again. Mathew is a Food truck owner & chef and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Mathew below.
Mathew, it’s been too long since we last connected. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with our community again. Some readers might have missed our prior conversations, so maybe you can kick things off for us with a quick intro?
Hi, my name is Mathew yamali, I am a 28-year-old chef living in Denver Colorado. I moved here in 2015 from Rochester NY, and I own two businesses here, Roll It Up Sushi and Downtown Fingers.
How did Covid affect your businesses?
When Covid-19 first emerged to the world I was in Asia, so I got to see it in full effect before everyone else. I got back to the states in February of 2020 and things have been interesting ever since. During the winter I usually travel and work on my computer booking gigs, weddings and events for the year to come. After March, my events started to cancel one by one, and by April 95% of my season was gone. With nothing booked for the year it was a mess to get the trucks out at all, offices were closed and public gathers were reduced to parties of five or less. I never had to scramble so much in my life, my employees hours were cut, and there was no work around town for anybody in the restaurant industry but around June and July we started to get the swing of things and found a way to work with HOAs and apartments around the city, saving our business from a complete stop and who knows, maybe even closure.
Are you optimistic about the future of the industry?
I am, I think the food industry will come back stronger than ever. I know I sound optimistic but I really think Covid has put things in perspective for a lot of people. Before the pandemic the economy was at an all-time high, grounding people and keeping them stuck in situations that they thought would last forever, now I feel like a lot more people have realized the only thing stopping them from change is themselves and the fear of failure. The world stopped for a brief moment, forcing a lot of people especially those in the restaurant industry to find ways to make a living. During that time, I witnessed a lot of people opt out of the traditional ways of employment and move into new and creative ways to put food on the table, literally, with companies like square and QuickBooks, anything is possible!
Why fried chicken? Why sushi?
it all started with the Sushi truck, I had this wild idea to start a food truck back in 2014 but I wasn’t sure what kind of food I was going to make. My relationship with sushi began when I was 14 years old when I got my first cooking job at a sushi bar. At first, I really wasn’t into the whole raw fish and rice ordeal, but after a year working closely with the chefs, I had falling head over heels in love with it. I practiced day in and out on my rolling skills and did everything I could to learn more, since then sushi has been one of the only foods I dreamed about. that job only lasted a few years, after that I found my way working up the ranks at steakhouses until I landed a job as a Sous chef here in Denver, but my love for sushi was still strong, and that’s when I decided that was going to be my creative outlet to the world. I saw an opening in the market, nobody was doing a sushi food truck! and Roll it Up Sushi was born. Why fried chicken? Because it’s in my DNA, I was raised in Rochester New York just 45 minutes away from where the chicken wing was born, and up there, we take fried chicken very seriously. I’m not going to say the fried chicken here in Denver is bad, but it just didn’t have that love and flavor that I missed back home, so I decided it was my duty to bring that aesthetic to Denver with all the love of Western New York. This was all an idea until I met Jesse my soon to be business partner and after a few chairlifts later we decided to give it a go!
What would say to those skeptical of moving into entrepreneurship?
I would say go for it. If Covid has taught me anything it’s that everything can change in the blink of an eye. One day you are working at your 9-5 job and the next you are waiting for one of the ten jobs you applied for to call you back. It’s almost like the only way to protect yourself is to become some sort of self-employed. People hear entrepreneurship and think it’s some difficult way of life only pursued by successful people and fail to realize that small businesses generate the majority of Jobs in the U.S. and small companies create 1.5 million jobs annually and account for 64 percent of new jobs created in the U.S.
What does your brand mean to you?
My brand means so much to me, but most of all, it means freedom. Freedom to be myself, to be creative, to be my own boss and work in an environment that benefits from my hard work. I never thought that life would end up working out this way, I just did my own thing and this is what came from it. So, my brand is a reflection me, and I am proud of it.
It was so great to reconnect. One last question – how can our readers connect with you, learn more or support you?
If you are interested in what we have going on, follow us on social media!
Instagram: @roll_it_up_sushi_truck @downtownfingers