Fried Chicken Queen Plans Expansion

Local food truck operator makes pitch on Restaurant Startup

Courtesy of Perry Ray

After more than four years of success with her Ms. P's Electric Cock fried chicken trailers, Austin's Perry Ray is ready to make the leap to a brick-and-mortar outlet. With that idea in mind, the self-styled "Queen of Fried Chicken" pitched her business plan to the investors on CNBC's Restaurant Startup.

After only one season on the air, Restaurant Startup is one of the hottest reality competition shows on television. It features Texas celebrity chef and restaurateur Tim Love and New York City restaurateur Joe Bastianich as the judges and potential investors in restaurant projects. Each week, two teams of aspiring restaurant owners prepare the signature dishes that represent their culinary brands and pitch their business plans to the judges in hopes of securing an investment.

After tasting the food, the judges listen to the pitches and ask the contestants probing questions to assess their restaurant savvy and evaluate their passion for the food business. Then Love and Bastianich confer and choose one team to move forward to the next round. The chosen team is given two days and $7,500 to create a pop-up restaurant that demonstrates their concept and represents their food and their brand. After a service in the pop-up restaurant, Love and Bastianich discuss what they've seen and meet with the team again, at which time one or both of them may make an investment offer to the aspiring restaurateurs.

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, CNBC aired an episode of Restaurant Startup featuring Perry Ray and her then-executive chef, Seth Helmley. The Austin team was competing against veteran Pennsylvania culinary instructors Stephen Latona and Mark Bellini of Smoke Kitchen, a wood-fired rotisserie chicken concept.

Love and Bastianich gave high marks to both plates of food and displayed some skepticism of both teams during the interview period. Love was familiar with Ms. P's chicken by reputation because of his frequent visits to Austin to participate in the Austin City Limits and Austin Food & Wine Festivals. However, both he and his fellow judge showed great concern about her chef's long-term commitment to the project and they were both bothered by a 2013 expansion plan that Ray admitted undermined her revenue.

In the end, Love and Bastianich chose Smoke Kitchen to move on to the second round and after some mentoring, Love made them an investment offer. Although she didn't make the cut, Perry Ray came back from last year's Los Angeles taping with a renewed determination to accomplish her restaurant dream. In a conversation after the show aired, Ray assured me that even though that particular avenue didn't result in an investment, "I'm 100% happy with what we did on that show."

Perry Ray and her husband, Kyle Keller, are actively pursuing the brick-and-mortar project with some local investment backing and her long-term goals include multiple outlets. She says they are considering several different proposals and scouting locations in the north central city, but aren't ready to make any announcements just yet.

Meanwhile, Ray made sure we knew that the original Ms. P's Electric Cock (1101 S. Congress) trailer will be open daily during the upcoming South by Southwest Festival and her second trailer is one of those invited to participate in the SouthBites (604 Driskill) food trailer park from 11am-12mid, Mar. 13-20.

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Perry Ray, Ms. P's Electric Cock, CNBC, Restaurant Startup, Tim Love, Joe Bastianich, Seth Helmley, Kyle Keller, Smoke Kitchen, South by Southwest, SouthBites

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