If Santa Fe had an official origin story, it would be that of the cockeyed optimist who showed up for school, a vacation, an art show, whatever; found themselves, and then never looked back. Xzavian Cookbey has one such story.
In 2011, Cookbey enrolled at the now defunct Santa Fe University of Art and Design (don't worry—he graduated in 2015 before the school closed), picked up a degree in film and had planned to spend the rest of his days as an indie film producer working on passion projects and creating with his friends. Fate intervened, as it does, and in 2016, Cookbey instead found himself behind the wheel and in the kitchen of Freezie Fresh, Santa Fe's only rolled ice cream business (in truck form or otherwise).
"I was working as a cashier at The Coop, and was doing research about food trucks, looking at different ideas and trying to figure out what I was trying to do," Cookbey tells SFR. "Then I came across this one article…saved up enough to buy my first ice cream pan, and then I was just at home watching YouTube videos trying to figure out how to get this ice cream rolled. It's all self-taught."
An ice cream pan, for those not in the know, is like the polar opposite of a crepe pan. The operator pours fresh ingredients on top, they freeze in realtime, add-ons (like lavender honey and salted caramel with red chile to name a couple) get tossed in and eventually the custom concoction is flattened and cut/rolled into small ice cream tubes. It's fun to watch, it's fun to eat, it's probably the most enjoyable ice cream thing to happen since whatever the hell Dippin' Dots are (I actually know, don't @me).
"As I saw it, I was like, that's something I would want, and other people would want to try it as well," Cookbey adds. "Four years in, and I'm still in love with it."
But what of the pandemic and of the already nomadic nature of food truck ownership? According to Cookbey, the change in the world has been oddly fortuitous from a business standpoint. He'd been parking at Meow Wolf for some time, but the perma-installation's closure in March forced him to move once the government lockdown allowed him to operate once more. He wound up in the Big 5 parking lot (2860 Cerrillos Road) with a lot more parking—something he said previous guests had pointed out as challenging. Because of that, business has gone up, and Cookbey has been able to bring on two employees. They learned the process more quickly than he did, Cookbey points out, but also assumes it has to do with how he mastered the technique.
And it doesn't end there. Cookbey says he's been in contact with the people behind the reportedly soon-to-open CHOMP food hall inside the Luna Santa Fe center. Assuming Cookbey does go the brick and mortar route, he envisions more add-ons and toppings as well as items like milk shakes and ice cream sandwiches. He might do the sandwiches in the truck, anyway, he just doesn't know yet. Besides, he'd still drive the Freezie Fresh truck around to his favorite haunts and special events and the like—he'd just have the space to get more creative.
"I think I'm emotionally attached to the truck," he says with a laugh.
Cookbey is also crowdfunding an industrial-sized ice cream maker through Gofundme.com and says a lot of his future plans hinge on that. Either way, he's found a home in Santa Fe and he's in no rush to leave. The food truck scene, he says, lacks any sort of mean-spirited competitiveness.
" Everyone is very supportive. You can pick up your phone and ask for advice," he says. "They understand the dedication that goes into your food truck. It looks like a lot of fun, but behind the scenes it's brutal."
All that so you can have a cup of rolled ice cream. Believe it's worth it, though, because Cookbey does.
"We're just trying to make it through this," he says. "When it comes to public health and safety, that's something we should come together on."