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A passion for pasta

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LOVINGTON – If you want to dine out, and want to go for pasta, you can now do that in Lovington — at least for the next week or so.

Pastify is the final chapter in the Lovington MainStreet’s Local Innovators Institute food truck program for 2021 and they’re hoping pasta dishes hit the spot.

“We really love pasta,” said co-owner Chrissy Stamps while preparing a tortellini dish inside “Big Blue” — the food truck trailer used for the MainStreet program.

“We have our own sauces, our own little touches,” the other half of Pastify, Kevin Stamps, said.

MainStreet’s food truck program generally seeks applications for participants in January and February, with a six-week class starting in March. Then chosen participants spend two weeks in Big Blue putting their newly gained knowledge to use and culinary skills to the test. Each of the first two cohorts of participants has been limited to five, but Lovington Main-Street Executive Director Mara Salcido said that number could change if needed to make the program better.

Like other participants in the program before them, the Stamps have a two-week operating time in Big Blue to see if their concept can lead to a future restaurant or food truck opening in the area. Pastify will operate in Big Blue outside of the Lea Theater, on the square in Lovington until Saturday.

“I’m good at pasta,” Kenny said. “I’ve been in food for 25 years, so I know the business.”

A passion for pasta is something the Stamps not only serve on every plate, but it is what brought them together many years ago.

“It’s something we both love, we have a history,” Chrissy said laughing. “Pasta goes back to when we first met.”

Kevin expounded on that.

“We met in a grocery store doing pasta,” he said smiling. “This is full circle, kind of come back to where we started. That’s where the idea stemmed from.”

Both have food industry experience leading all the way back to their respective days in the military — Kevin in the Navy for eight years as a MS2 (Mess Specialist) on board the USS McInerney, a guided missile class frigate, and Chrissy in the Army as a 92G (Army Culinary Specialist).

While Pastify serves a variety of pasta dishes from fettuccine alfredo, to spaghetti, both Chrissy and Kevin agree lasagna is something they specialize in.

“That’s a recipe he has carried from his Navy days,” Chrissy said.

And, customers who have tried the food seem to agree. Kevin mentioned a text message he received earlier in the day from someone who had eaten at the Pastify food truck.

“They said our shrimp alfredo was the best they have ever had,” Kevin said humbly. “I feel like I’ve been validated now and that I do know food. I’ve always questioned it, and this really is validation for me.”

Also like others before them, Pastify received help in running the daily business from other participants and mentors in the program. On Thursday, Chrissy was joined in her food truck by fellow program participant Shelby Faught, and Baja Grill owner Kenny Kim. Collaboration is one of the many benefits of the program.

“Kenny’s (Kim) helped quite a bit,” Chrissy said. “His expertise has helped a lot.”

As a mentor in the Local Innovator’s Institute food truck program, Kim said he would love to see a vibrant restaurant scene in Lovington, complete with food trucks and brick-and-mortar eateries.

“(The program) is amazing. If we would have had this when we started off, it would have been a game changer. It could have saved a lot of headaches and a lot of money,” Kim told the News-Sun. “The old saying is, ‘competition is always welcome.’ So, anything that can help our city grow and keep some of that money here in town locally is a win-win to me.

“We all have that dream of doing what we love to do and making money at it. That’s what we hope people can do and learn from it.”

And, Kim said the community needs more variety of restaurants than just fast food. On Saturday night, a popular date night, there are few choices of sit-down restaurants in Lovington.

“The community deserves a variety of restaurants to choose from, and we’re hoping to bring some of these businesses here, start-up food trucks and brick-and-mortar, so we can have places to go eat,” Kim added. “My wife and I like sit-down restaurants. We take vacations to go eat — we scout out places to eat and plan our vacations around that. That’s how much we love food.”

And, Kim is no stranger to working in a food truck. When Baja Grill’s Lovington location had a fire last year, the restaurant was able to still keep serving residents by borrowing Big Blue.

“It really saved our business,” Kim said. “It kept our employees working, it really saved us.”

Chrissy and Kevin encourage anyone with the dream of starting a restaurant to give the MainStreet program a try, if for nothing more than the experience and knowledge gained.

“It was more than we expected, in terms of we didn’t expect the amount of support we would get,” Chrissy said. “They set you up to succeed. They want people to be able to come in and start their own business. They want more small businesses. … I say go for it.”

“I love (the program). Mara (Salcido) is outstanding, everyone I’ve been in touch with has been awesome,” Kevin said.

“It’s really a no-brainer. You attend a class, then you have two weeks to play with this beautiful trailer to pitch your concept,” Kim said. “Fight to get in this program … it could change your life.”

Kevin and Chrissy said it’s too early to say when Lea County residents can expect to see a Pastify restaurant or food truck, but it’s something they feel more encouraged to do after some time in Big Blue.

“It might take a little longer than we were hoping, but we’re getting there,” Chrissy said.

“We’re coming. I don’t know when, so I can’t give a date, but we’re coming,” Kevin added with a big wide grin. “This is a dream. And, we live in America — dreams are supposed to happen.”

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