Chef Devin Keopraphay’s Rise to the Top

To understand Rising Tiger’s journey to the top, you have to begin with its roots. Devin Keopraphay’s grandmother brought her family, including her seven children, from the Khammouane province of Laos four decades ago to escape political strife. They were sponsored by Catholic missionaries in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Devin grew up speaking Lao, Thai, and English, and experienced a blend of cultures that infuses his life – and his cooking – to this day. 

He describes himself then as a troubled teen, who was first drawn to working in the restaurant industry for the sake of consistent, free food. After graduating high school, he had a brief stint in professional boxing (he says that he still can’t breathe through his left nostril after being punched in the face too many times), where he saved up enough money to start his own sushi restaurant, but it didn’t last very long. After that, he worked in restaurants across Philadelphia, D.C., and Baltimore, before eventually settling in Longmont in 2018. He continued to work in the industry, cooking in local restaurants including Blackbelly and Jax, but with a young daughter at home, he decided working the dinner shift was off the table.  “I realized that I didn’t care about making the most elaborate dishes anymore,” Devin recalled. “I wanted to be home with my baby. When I would work at the restaurants, my day would start at 12:00pm and end at 12:00am. I would spend 3 hours a day with my daughter, working six days a week, and still struggling.”

Ready to step out on his own again, he established Tiger & Wife in 2019, an Asian bakery business that blended his culinary roots with his now ex-partner’s talent for baking, and offered no-contact delivery throughout the pandemic. They were doing well, but once they decided to part ways, he had to move in a new direction. Trying to balance his new role as a single father with reliable work proved challenging, and with mounting debt, he was ready to throw in the towel on his dreams when he decided to pursue a final hail mary: applying for the Longmont Farmers Market. “I figured, if it didn’t work out, by November I would just call it quits,” he remembered. But instead of being where Devin’s story ends, it’s the decision that started the next chapter.

Moving away from the bakery side of Tiger & Wife, Devin recreated the concept of his business to create Rising Tiger in 2023, with the goal of continuing to pursue the work-life balance he needed while still making the creative, Asian-American fusion dishes that distinguish him as a chef. He asked the question: “how can I still make really cool food, but in a lunch and breakfast format that can compliment my life?” The result comes in the form of ridiculously flavorful scallion pancakes stuffed with eggs, tofu, or pork belly, local produce from market vendors, and dripping with mouthwatering sauce. Every week, new flavors of gluten-free taiyaki are cooked fresh and served alongside seasonal dishes and drinks. An immediate hit, it’s safe to say that after his first year, there was no looking back.

Rico Womack takes orders from customers at the Longmont Farmers Market last summer.

Rising Tiger returns to the Longmont Farmers Market this season, and is expanding to join the Louisville Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and the Boulder Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings. That means Chef Devin is indeed returning to dinner, but at the farmers market, his daughter, Juniper, doesn’t need to be left at home. “She came to the market with me a lot,” said Devin. “One of the best things about the farmers market is how family-friendly it is, she can walk around and talk to the vendors and I know she’s safe.” While we don’t have any commentary from Juniper’s perspective on how her dad’s career change has impacted her, he shared that he gets to see her every morning as she steps onto the bus, and returns to the same spot to greet her when she gets home. “She thinks my only job is walking the dog and making snacks,” he said with a laugh. 

Boulder Farmers Market customers can expect the same Asian-American fusion Rising Tiger serves up for the Longmont Farmers Market in his dinner menu, but with a new twist. Returning to his family’s roots in Laos, the dinner menu will feature his take on traditional recipes (not so traditional that he thinks his parents would approve, though). “We’re as American as we are Asian. We’re making something that’s both fundamentally Lao, and fundamentally Colorado.” At its heart, Rising Tiger is the story of so many first-and-second generation restaurants: creating the flavors that taste like home, while incorporating the ingredients in their new neighborhood.

You can try Rising Tiger at the Boulder Farmers Market May 1, from 3:30 to 7:30pm or at the Longmont Farmers Market each Saturday 8am to 1pm. Our Wednesday evening market will continue every week starting now through October 2, 2024. Be sure to come hungry!

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