Food & Drink

Snowboarder Chloe Kim got hungry and won the gold. This Durham coffee shop had the perfect response.

Chloe Kim, of the United States, smiles during the women’s halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Chloe Kim, of the United States, smiles during the women’s halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. AP

The state of hangriness – that’s anger ignited by hunger – is not to be underestimated. It’s like a grumbling stomach in the brain, collapsing a world of reason and order into food seeking madness.

From atop a mountain in South Korea last week, gold medalist snowboarder Chloe Kim – who graces the cover of the newest issue of Sports Illustrated – lamented the half-finished breakfast sandwich that got away. Moments before dropping into the snowboard halfpipe, Kim tweeted, “Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I’m getting hangry,” apparently able to channel that caloric deficient rage into gold medal glory.

As one of the stars of this year’s winter Olympic games, the 17-year-old Kim tweets often about food. About the calming nature of churros, about how in a moment of ice creamlessness, it would be cool to have ice cream. Those tweets got hundreds of thousands of responses and resonated in particular with the owners of Durham coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon, which offered Kim a plate of its churros if she’s ever in the Bull City.

Once Kim snagged her gold medal, Cocoa Cinnamon took it farther, naming a churro ice cream sandwich in her honor. The Chloe Kim is two tightly coiled churros sandwiched around a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Durham ice cream shop, The Parlour. It looks kind of like a gold medal covered in rainbow sprinkles.

Cocoa Cinnamon has expanded to three Durham coffee shops owned by husband and wife Leon Grodski de Barrera and Areli Barrera de Grodski. Their third shop opened last summer in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood, adding coffee roasting and churro-making to the operation. N&O Restaurant Critic Greg Cox named it the best coffeehouse in the Triangle this year.

Reaching out to Kim was all Leon’s idea, they said, compelled to send the good vibes of digital churros thousands of miles across the globe to Korea. Leon’s churro offer was name dropped in The Washington Post, alongside other branding efforts of appliance companies and butcher shops.

Durham coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon has created the Chloe Kim, a churro ice cream sandwich inspired by the gold medalist snowboarder’s professed love of churros, ice cream and sandwiches. Leon Grodski de Barrera

Grodski de Barrera’s love of the Olympics goes deeper than tweeting food-related congratulations. In his high school years, Grodski de Barrera was one of the top badminton players in the country, even living for months at an Olympic training facility in Michigan as the United States built up its youth program. The experience makes him more than a passive viewer.

“The cool thing it does for me is give me the insight and appreciation for her incredible story,” Grodski de Barrera said. “You gather how much these folks are working out, their extreme discipline and dedication, while having some fun.”

He never competed in the Olympics, but said he could relate to the training regimen, of competing and traveling across the country. The Olympics explore the limits of human potential, he said, in the way Einstein pushed science and NASA discovers worlds. Peering into that once long ago makes him a better businessman today.

“Of all the crazy things humans do with their bodies, why do we do this thing, what possesses humans to fling themselves down a mountain,” Grodski de Barrera said. “I’m a better business owner because of it. It made me extremely disciplined, showed me what it means to fight through ups and downs, how to live with people around the world, to be self reliant, to travel. All of that is at the essence of entrepreneurship.”

So far, Kim hasn’t made any moves to claim her Durham churros, but her ice cream sandwich will likely be perfected if she ever dropped by.

“I had five yesterday,” Grodski de Barrera said – all in the name of research.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson