ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What started off as one food truck during the pandemic is about to blossom into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The small business even gained the attention of the Food Network, where its owner and founder, Ronicca Whaley, will be competing throughout the month.
Whaley’s dumpling recipe goes all the way back to Asia itself, where she worked with the Prime Minister of Kuala Lumpur.
“When I finished that project I moved back to St. Pete and noticed that we had a huge lack of dumplings in town and I started this phenomenon that we call Shiso Crispy,” said Whaley.
In the past three years, Shiso Cripsy expanded from one food truck to three, and they are just weeks away from announcing the location of a permanent restaurant.
“It’s huge, I was really able to offer something truly unique to the community,” said Whaley. “They’re just such powerful, strong, exciting, just addicting flavors, that once you had it you are a customer for life.”
Whaley is building a staff consisting of all women.
“I love giving women an opportunity, especially women who have never cooked before,” said Whaley. “So you start from the bottom and they are running these things by themselves, they are learning technique, they are learning skills, learning operations, learning management.”
This July it’s not just Shiso Crispy, it’s Shiso Famous. Whaley is competing on Food Network’s, "Guy’s Grocery Games," hosted by Guy Fieri.
“He’s funny, he’s kind, he really tried to help you through the whole process, make you comfortable,” said Whaley. “You get 30 minutes to grocery shop and cook whatever they tell you to cook and they throw wrenches in at you and try to make it as difficult as they possibly can.”
Whaley couldn't tell us how she did on the show, but either way, every stop for the Shiso Crispy truck feels like a victory lap thanks to all the attention.
“It’s huge, it's made our lines longer, and it’s made our brand bigger, and getting our name out to people and for them to be able to try what a lot of people say is the best food in Tampa Bay,” said Whaley.