Legendary chef Guy Fieri, host of the new TV special Restaurant Reboot, just awarded a San Diego vegan food truck $25,000 as a grant that is part of a bigger program to support California's restaurant industry. The vegan food truck, Rollin’ Roots serves up BBQ and southern-style fried favorites like vegan Po Boys and Buffalo "Chickun" among other plant-based fried foods.

The donation comes as part of a series of grants totaling $300,000 presented by Lending Tree, Pepsi, Grub Hub, Conagra, and AT&T, dedicated to reinvigorating restaurants and foodservice businesses around the state that have faced hardship in the last year. The program is the result of the partnership between Fieri and the non-profit dedicated to the California Restuarant Foundation (CFR). The donation was presented to Rollin’ Roots owner Avonte Hartsfield by LendingTree on June 12th alongside four other restaurants across California.

“I’m honored to receive this opportunity from Guy Fieri and LendingTree and can’t wait to use the funds to expand into a brick-and-mortar restaurant and retain staff members during these times,” Hartfield said. “This is a definite stepping stone towards reaching my lifelong goal of owning a thriving restaurant and I can’t express how grateful I am to Guy and LendingTree for their generosity.”

The Restaurant Reboot initiative is Fieri’s attempt to give struggling small businesses a chance to thrive in the upcoming year after more than a year of financial hardship. Fieri hopes to offer guidance to a new wave of restaurant owners as well. The program wants to reward the winners and assist them in achieving a “promising future” within the restaurant industry.

“We’re proud to partner with Guy and his team to inspire, encourage and provide financial assistance to these five incredible California restaurants during this critical time,” Executive Director for CRF Alycia Harshfield said. “Restaurants were especially hard-hit by the pandemic, creating unprecedented challenges for owners and their employees and a void in the hearts of American diners; I think we’re all ready to return to the table. Teaming up with Guy’s Restaurant Reboot is an exciting opportunity for us to foster support for California restaurants and further rebuild the industry.”

Hartsfield started his vegan food truck in 2019, immediately before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since he was 14, he has worked in the restaurant industry, hoping to one day launch his own business. The restaurant owner decided that he wanted to focus on making vegan food to serve at the local farmers market when he realized that delicious plant-based food could be hard to find. Initially, he tried to open his restaurant in 2019, but due to complications revolving around the pandemic he resorted to launching his business as a food truck.

The Rollin’ Roots is located at 8040 Armour Street in Kearny Mesa, San Diego, and is open for business every day of the week. The menu provides plant-based consumers with several meat alternatives such as vegan deep-fried shrimp and a plant-based Bahn Mi, with sides like Sweet Potato Fries. The menu also avoids any soy-based alternatives and proteins because Hartsfield wanted to avoid the allergens. He believes that eating processed meat alternatives every day can be comparatively harmful to eating meat products every day.

Hartsfield’s business makes an effort to make plant-based food accessible. Without overusing a label, he aims to create food that anyone would enjoy, regardless of dietary preference.

“It’s vegan food, but we really don’t label it as vegan food just because everyone can enjoy,” Harshfield said to Good Morning San Diego. “It’s comfort food. We’ve got Buffalo chicken sandwiches, a Bahn Mi, and fried mac and cheese balls and things like that... It’s really just comfort food that everyone can enjoy."

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