Book calls Chandler’s businesswoman ‘intriguing’
By Ken Sain
Kris Mill says people come up to her all the time surprised and happy to see her and her food truck at events in the Valley.
“When we attend events, I get a lot of comments from customers, like, ‘Thank goodness you’re here, because we’ve had enough of greasy food,'” Mill said. “People are trying to eat healthier. There are more people now who are vegetarians and vegans than when I… started this about six years ago.
Mill serves vegetarian and vegan food from his truck, Wok This Way. She co-owns with a young man she calls her nephew, Jake Lipovitch. They are not really related: he is the eldest son of his best friend in sixth grade. Yet they could just as well be related to how close they are.
Mill said they both shared a passion for cooking. Jake, soon to be 16, has Down syndrome and that motivated Mill to help. She said teaching people with Down syndrome how to cook healthy meals and providing them with those meals is something she can do because people with the condition often tend to be overweight.
“He loves cooking with his aunt,” Mill said. “He’s one of the many reasons, he’s the main reason, why I have this food truck.”
Another thing she can do is give them jobs. She said they were excellent workers and half of her staff had Down syndrome.
“It’s a way for them to feel empowered,” she says.
Mill says she strives to make her food truck business fully sustainable, including zero waste. She hopes to have a second food truck in the coming years, one dedicated to veggie burgers. And then maybe a third truck after that, which she hopes will be electric.
His efforts to provide healthy food choices, employ people with Down syndrome and work towards sustainability have been noted. The Arizona Historical Society and 48 Women chose the Chandler resident as one of Arizona’s 48 Most Intriguing Women this year. The book, titled “48 Women: Arizona’s Most Intriguing Women,” will be released next month and can be ordered at 48women.org/the-book.
She is the only Chandler resident on the list.
“It surrounds my passion for what I do for the community,” Mill said. “I’m very involved in sustainability, zero waste, hiring people with special needs, especially Down syndrome, for employment.”
She is also working with others to create a non-profit organization to involve people with special needs in the culinary arts.
Mill said she believes her truck is the first in Arizona that specializes in vegetarian and vegan fare. She said it’s also the first in the state to go zero waste.
“When the truck was built, from the start it was designed to be a green food truck,” Mill said. “All the fixtures that are on the truck, including the lighting (were built that way). We make compost.
She said she was working with Arizona State University on a project to use its gray water for agriculture.
Mill said she started with a dream of opening her own restaurant, a healthy restaurant she wanted to eat at. After trying a few pop-up restaurants, she and Jake settled on a food truck. She said all the meals they offer are 550 calories or less and all the food is fresh. She said there was nothing frozen on the truck.
In keeping with the wok theme, the dishes are Asian influenced.
The pandemic has been as tough on the food truck industry as it has been on restaurants. Supply lines continue to be a problem, Mill says. And on top of that now there are concerns about gas prices that restaurants don’t need to worry about so much.
“The past two years have been devastating for us,” Mill said. “Absolutely devastating. The industry is still affected. I try to get people to work on the truck, people don’t want to work. They don’t even show up for interviews. I have much more success with my workers with Down syndrome.
Mill said there were signs the pandemic was ending.
“Over the past six weeks we’ve had several events,” Mill said. “And we’ve had people call us to introduce us to events. He has totally changed.
And Mill said she hopes other food trucks will follow her model and start offering healthier options.
Where to find her
To find the locations where the food truck will be, visit wokthisway.today.