Does E-40 like lumpia? Yup — so much so that the East Bay rap legend is now an investor and co-owner of a growing Filipino food business, the Lumpia Company, which specializes in the fried Filipino spring rolls he loves.
“Being from Vallejo, California, my surroundings was all walks of life, very diverse,” says E-40, whose given name is Earl Stevens. “Filipinos were a big part of Vallejo’s community... some of my best friends was Filipino. I ate lumpia with the kids I grew up around, and it became one of my favorite dishes of all time.”
So when the popular, SF-raised DJ E-Rock introduced Stevens to his friend Alex Retodo, a food entrepreneur who founded the Lumpia company in 2015, they had lots to talk about. Retodo sent a sample of his lumpia to Stevens, “and history was made,” Stevens says.
Retodo’s lumpia recipe channels his mother’s Filipino cooking, but with some twists: See, for example, his best-selling bacon cheeseburger lumpia. He currently sells his wares from an Uptown Oakland takeout window, a 30-foot, festival-roaming Lumpia trailer, and as of this season, inside Oracle Park, home of the SF Giants.
“Us both growing up baseball fans, and Earl being a die hard Giants fan, it was only right for us to launch this vendor booth inside the ballpark,” Retodo says. There, the Lumpia Company sells three or four varieties of lumpia at a time, like pork and shrimp “Shanghai” lumpia, Earl’s ground turkey and veggies (a flavor designed by Stevens), and peach mango dessert Lumpia. There’s also soft serve in Filipino flavors like ube and mango, drinks like calamansi limeade and beer on tap, and a Filipino-inspired chili dish over rice.
“I think it’s breaking boundaries, being one of the first if not the first lumpia business inside of a stadium,” says Stevens.
If plans go their way, it won’t be the last. Stevens and Retodo hope to franchise the Lumpia company, with more locations across the country. It helps that lumpia is a snackable food that’s quick to prepare — and, according to Stevens, one that suits every occasion.
“I sell alcohol too: Earl Stevens wine, E-Cuarenta tequila — all that. So one of my quotes is ‘you can drink liquor when you’re celebrating, and you can drink liquor when you’re down and out.’” The same, says Stevens, is true of lumpia. It even works as a drinking snack.