It’s no exaggeration to say San Antonio Chef Ryan Rhys is in the middle of two of the most transformational journeys of his life.
The trangender chef-owner of the Satisfried food truck and ghost kitchen began his journey in the business venture with a different name and gender identity but recently embraced ones more suited to his soul.
At the same time, Rhys and his wife Paige are expanding their business with several concepts inside the new Lombrano Foodhall in San Antonio’s Five Points neighborhood — all while continuing to operate the Satisfried mini-empire and Enzo’s Culinary Events catering outfit.
We caught up with Rhys to chat about what’s next on these journeys.
What inspired the idea for Satisfried’s menu, which you refer to as “healthy-ish fat kid food?”
It’s big-kid food, you know, just a little bit better now. As kids, we all like tacos, sliders and mac and cheese, but when we grow up and eat them, it’s often subpar, mediocre. We really do try to strive for the best quality that we can, and we make everything from scratch and it’s all made to order. Nothing on the truck comes in frozen. And we like to be fun and funny. I’ve worked in fine dining the majority of my professional life. So, when we were diving into the truck, I decided that I want this to be like the most fun parts of me without being too much.
Between you and your wife and business partner Paige, is there one that’s more creative and one that’s more business-minded? Or do you find those roles kind of interchange between the two of you?
We go back and forth on creativity and organization. My wife is definitely more black-and-white organization, in the sense of, like, spreadsheets, diagrams, schedules, calendars, HR, billing. That’s all her. And then I always make sure that the truck is functional, we have everything ordered, you know, the food side of everything. The presentation of our business, like our social media and website, that’s all my wife. She creates all of that content.
What is the next couple of years looking like for Satisfried? Is an expansion in the works?
I would say we’re actually in our expansion process right now. We’ve been an anchor truck over at StreetFare since October of this last year, and it’s been great. [The summer] has been a little rough, you know, when it’s so hot, not as many people want to come hang out with us and eat our delicious food. So, there are those struggles. But I have opened a commercial kitchen as well over at Lombrano Foodhall. So, we do all of our catering out of there, and we’re launching multiple food concepts out of that kitchen. There’s a lot going on. The last month or so has been a crazy roller coaster. It’s like we just decided to do everything all at one time.
Everything was kind of on hold for two years, so that makes total sense.
Satisfried has been in business now since April of 2021. And then the previous months, I was doing meal prep and planning, and that was what kind of got me started and what got my business out there. So, we had focused all of our energy on the truck, but now we have the kitchen, too. So, we run Satisfried the truck, Satisfried the kitchen and Enzo’s Culinary Events all under our umbrella.
It sounds like you two probably don’t get any down time at all. How do you relax together?
Yeah, we don’t really. People say that, but we have a 15-year-old as well, so whatever downtime we have, he occupies. I guess we do try to go out to eat, but I’d be lying if I said we have a weekly date night every Tuesday. I would say Sunday, from around 11:30 at night to about 1 o’clock in the morning — that’s our quality time when we watch our trashy TV or whatever we’re binging. And if that’s the case, then Bob and Timmy’s food truck is oftentimes our dinner.
In preparing for this interview, I came across an Express-News piece on you from December of last year and noticed that the name of the Satisfried chef in that article was different from yours.
Yeah, that was our first big piece. I was super proud of that. And that’s when I started coming out, actually, right after that article. I told my wife, “I gotta stop the shenanigans. You know, this Superman-Clark Kent, sort of double-life situation is confusing.” And I was finally getting confident enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to say, you know, “This is me.” That’s still a very new process for me, so this is probably going to be like my coming out piece, essentially. I’ve been out and all these things. I changed my name on social media, and I always introduce myself as Ryan. But I haven’t had that one-on-one with a lot of other people that are in my outside life, if that makes sense. I always joked that I’m a bad homo because I was the straightest lesbian you’d ever meet. Because I wanted a wife and a kid and a dog and a house with a picket fence, and in my mind, that was always heteronormative. This last year, my wife and I sat down and talked about all the feelings that I was having and why they weren’t making sense. I credit her with a lot of where we are now, both personally and professionally.