Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: "#111: Hip Hop's French Fry Dealer w/Mr. Fries Man," out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.
While French fries can often be an afterthought, or just a complementary side, this man has made them the main course, with the help of the hip-hop community.
Craig Batiste, founder of Mr. Fries Man in Gardena, California has a unique come-up story, going from low key selling his fully-loaded fries in random parking lots, to getting a brick-and-mortar open.
How exactly do you sell surf and turf garlic fries in a parking lot? Well, Batiste steadily posted on his Instagram account, not knowing if anyone would actually see his photos. To his surprise, people were intrigued enough to try his fries, called into the Google number he had listed, and put in orders.
Turns out, when Batiste gave his customers an address, a lot thought they were being directed to a restaurant.
Instead, Batiste would pull up to a donut shop parking lot with homemade fries, ready for the exchange. As you can imagine, this looked sketchy as hell, and the donut shop asked him to put an end to his fry dealing.
That forced Batiste to look for other parking lots to continue serving his fans, and making his deliveries.
As word of mouth spread and his clientele grew, Batiste's life changed once the west coast hip-hop community started hearing of his underground fry sales.
It started with longtime west coast hip-hop legend, The Game.
"My boy Lil E called me... he hit me up and said, 'Look, bro. The game wants some fries,'" Batiste recalled on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast. "I'm like, 'You playin' bro.'"
While Batiste thought it was a joke, the rapper himself gave him a call, and personally requested that he deliver some fries to The Game's recording studio.
That was Mr. Fries Man's first big customer, as word continued to spread about his famous lemon garlic-topped fries.
The next big rap name really helped Batiste take off, as the late, great Nipsey Hussle wanted in on these parking lot fries.
As Hussle himself put in the call, Batiste again thought he was being pranked.
"I was like, why's somebody on the phone? Somebody named Nipsey?" Batiste said.
It really was the Crenshaw rapper, as fellow west coast emcee Jay Rock made the pick up of the fries for him.
That's when Batiste's life really changed. Hussle showed support in one of the most meaningful ways possible by posting a photo of his French fry dinner to his Instagram account, and giving credit to the man who made them.
When a celebrity genuinely posts about your business, things change.
Batiste got a 3 a.m. call after Hussle posted his late-night foodie adventure, and Mr. Fries Man's following grew tenfold.
That is when he had to start creating appointment spots for his fry deliveries, and eventually sharing a building space to sell out of.
In 2017, Batiste fully took over that shop, and Mr. Fries Man has had a legitimate restaurant location for almost three years now.
Gone are the days of sneaking around from parking lot to parking lot, spending endless hours in his home kitchen, and struggling to pay those monthly bills. For Batiste, becoming official tastes just as good as fries.