LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rudy Bamba doesn't hesitate when asked what makes his eggrolls, or "lumpia" as they're known in the Philippines, so special.
"It makes you think of all the good things when you hear that crunch," he said.
Watching Rudy roll lumpia is like watching an artist paint, with his fingers folding and rolling the thin dough as effortlessly as a painter's brush sweeping across a canvas. Like painting, this skill comes after hundreds of hours of repetition, learned at a very young age from his Filipino immigrant parents.
"He's a cook at heart," Emma, Rudy's wife, said. "This is what he does and this is just an interesting start."
Rudy has been rolling a lot more these days and he has the coronavirus pandemic - of all things - to thank for that.
More than a dozen Louisville restaurants have permanently closed since the pandemic hit and many others have had to cut back their services. Thousands of employees also found themselves out of work when restaurants and bars closed earlier this spring, including Rudy, who had worked as a kitchen manager.
With his extra time, Rudy started doing what he knew best - cooking lumpia and other Filipino dishes for his family and friends.
"I miss my mom's cooking," he said. "I couldn't visit her."
"Rudy has always loved to share his food, and so I think that's just part of him," Emma said. "He's always going to give people food."
"If you can, why not?" Rudy said.
More requests for his food soon started coming in, with many orders coming from people the Bambas did not know.
"One night I was rolling eggrolls until 4 in the morning to be ready to be delivered by lunch time and that's when we knew this was something that's keeping us busy," Rudy said. "We could potentially make a life off of this."
"I think it was a couple weeks ago when we really had the conversation like either we do this and stay where we are and not grow or you're going to have to quit your job," Emma said.
So Rudy quit his job and decided to devote all his time towards their new venture, Bamba Eggroll Company. The Bambas got the proper licenses and permits and moved out of their tiny home kitchen into a larger commercial cooking space to accommodate the increased interest.
While they know firsthand how devastating the coronavirus has been to others in the industry, the Bambas said without their own struggles, Bamba Eggroll Company would never have taken off.
"Being quarantined for a while, you kind of just look at yourself like what can we do?" Rudy said. "Can we pay the bills? What can we do to make money? We have skills."
Bamba Eggroll Company has been selling its food at Westport Road Farmers Market and has also been offering online ordering and delivery. The Bambas said they hope to eventually expand their menu and availability.
More information can be found at www.bambaeggrolls.com.
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