Alumna Katie Foley ’01 Talks About Silo Food Truck

By Jenny Barnett, April 5, 2022

Silo Food Truck on campus in April and May.

Crispy fried chicken, creamy mac and cheese, and homemade gravy might seem a far cry from the worlds of fitness and rehabilitation—and the irony isn’t lost on Katie Foley ’01, co-owner of local food truck, Silo, famous for its “homemade recipes that blend the comforts of Southern cooking with a unique ethnic twist.”

The former exercise science major laughs that while the truck does have many healthy options their signature dishes are unlikely to be a go-to for those with a liking for less decadent cuisine.

Foley and partner, chef Jesse Steve, operate Silo—voted Best Food Truck by readers of the Ithaca Times’ “Best Of” issue three times—out of downtown brew hall Liquid State from Wednesday through Sunday. A second truck which tours events and festivals throughout the Finger Lakes Region in the summer will be coming to the Ithaca College campus.

Silo Food Truck on Ithaca College Campus

Silo Food Truck will be on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, April 8, and for five Tuesdays, from April 12 through May 10.

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Silo Food Truck offering. (Photo submitted)

Foley describes the menu as “classic American fare dressed up in unique ways.” Staples like mac and cheese and fried chicken with cornbread and gravy are offered alongside fare with a fusion twist. A fan favorite is the Wizard Green Curry, fried chicken on the bone with green coconut curry over purple coconut sticky rice, local greens and house-made Asian pickles. Their Telekinetic Chicken, with its Korean-style barbecue sauce, earned top prize in the Food Truck Competition at the 2016 New York State Fair. Acknowledging the vegetarian/vegan trend, many dishes are also available sans chicken, and fried tofu has been added to the Liquid State truck slate.

As a student, Foley spent a lot of time off campus, often heading to the Commons to do her homework, and she opted to stay in the area after graduation.

“I got a taste for what the community was like, and I sort of fell in love with it,” the Massachusetts native says. “There was a progressive, out-of-the-box way of viewing things that felt aligned with how I wanted to live my life.”

“I got a taste for what the community was like, and I sort of fell in love with it. There was a progressive, out-of-the-box way of viewing things that felt aligned with how I wanted to live my life.”

Katie Foley '01.

She credits her time at Ithaca College with providing her with a well-rounded education, preparing her professionally, and giving her the opportunity to go in a variety of directions. Foley was one of the first student workers in IC’s personal training program, and she also worked in the Wellness Center as an undergrad. Her takeaway from those experiences was that she loved interacting and working directly with people. Rather than heading into the health sciences field, she found herself in the not-for-profit sector. She landed a job at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, becoming director of their Big Brother, Big Sister program at just 22. 

“I remember thinking, this is a unique opportunity, and one that might not be afforded to me if I moved to a larger city,’” she says.  “And I felt I had the skills to take it on.”

She went on to hold leadership roles at various not-for-profits in fundraising, marketing and event planning and was serving as director of development at Planned Parenthood when she met Steve, in the summer of 2014.

Silo Truck was launched a year later. Steve, an experienced chef who had spent several years working in the central New York State restaurant scene—including a stint at Stonecat Café on Seneca Lake where he honed his skills at sourcing local, farm-to-table ingredients—had a passion for fried chicken and had already been developing a unique recipe for cooking the comfort food staple. Foley had had some hospitality experience prior to Silo and always had an interest in running a business. The couple bought the truck from family friends and just twelve months later found themselves catering the event where they had met.

“Our skill sets complement each other really well,” says Foley. She handles bookings and heads up the marketing, branding, HR and the accounting side of the business.

Steve—dubbed the “Chicken Wizard”—“is sort of a magician when it comes not only to recipes and sourcing ingredients, but also the logistics of how food is served in unique environments out of a truck,” she says.

Silo Food Truck

Silo Food Truck at Ithaca Festival. (Photo submitted)

During busy times, Silo purchases between 600 and 1,000 pounds of chicken a week—and once fed 5,000 people in a 24-hour period. Their local vendor follows stringent requirements for growing, raising and handling poultry humanely. In a three-day prep process, the chicken is brined, roasted, and soaked in buttermilk, before being dredged and fried.

Foley’s role in the business was initially part-time.

“When we first started out, I was lending my ‘go-get-it’ attitude and professional background to get it off the ground and see what we would do with it. And it kind of took off. So I said, ‘Let's do this together.’”

It’s been her full-time venture for the past six years, but she remains committed to the not-for-profit world and the Ithaca area.

“I want to be a good community player and I want to give back,” says Foley.

She currently volunteers as a board member for the CFCU Community Credit Union, the Edith B. Ford Library, The State Theatre of Ithaca and The State Theater of Ithaca Foundation, and Silo Truck participates in major local events, including the Ithaca Festival, GrassRoots, and Apple Fest.

Like everyone in the hospitality industry, Foley and Steve were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In early 2020 they had been in talks with Liquid State Brewing Company regarding a partnership at their location on West Green Street. The plan had been to spend the summer building their second truck and launch it at the beer hall in the fall. Then COVID hit—and they had to pivot.

In May, they set up their original truck in the parking lot, serving pickup meals to-go. They also catered home-style, offering buckets of chicken and double orders of mac and cheese and cornbread. Towards the middle of the summer they added outdoor seating. It proved to be a very successful year and gave them the confidence to expand. In May 2021, the second Silo Truck took up permanent residency and recently opened for the 2022 season, adding Saturday lunch to their roster.

Foley is excited to start their events season with appearances at IC. The truck participated in last year’s freshman orientation and she’s looking forward to introducing Silo to students who might rarely come down off the hill. She is strengthening her connection to her alma mater in other ways, too, having recently hired a Park School grad as her first part-time marketing assistant.

She and Steve typically take a break over the winter—a time to recharge, focus on next steps and get inspired. For Foley, this year meant a fact-finding trip to Puerto Rico with mom, sister and girlfriends, Steve was busy refurbishing an early 1990s convertible Mustang.

“The food truck scene in Puerto Rico is amazing,” said Foley. “Even if I wanted to eat at a cart, trailer or truck three times a day, I couldn’t fit it all in. It’s pretty remarkable. And it’s fun to travel and see what others are doing.”