When Tyla-Simone Crayton opens Sienna Wings in Missouri City this weekend, it will be yet another example of how the 19-year-old always aims to “dream big.”
Crayton’s path to debuting a restaurant selling chicken wings inside a Harvest Market started early. At age 8, she developed a sauce recipe when one of her favorite restaurants closed. As a teenager, she ran a restaurant with her mother, Monique, out of their home on weekends and sold lunches to classmates. Crayton landed on the hit show “Shark Tank” before graduating high school and won $100,000 in backing for her line of condiments called Sienna Sauce.
“Everyone has a competitor, no matter how big they may be,” Crayton said. “The world needs more wings.”
The first batch of Sienna Sauce was made in Brooklyn, N.Y., when Crayton could barely reach the stovetop. Her mom hosted “wing and wine Wednesdays” for family and friends, who would ask for the secret recipe to the molasses-like sauce with an orange hue.
In 2013, the Craytons, who said they were briefly homeless in New York City, moved to Houston for a new start. They lived in the Galleria area before moving to Sienna a few years later. Crayton’s mother worked at a Marshalls off Westheimer.
They continued throwing parties at home, and the requests for the sauce and wings kept coming.
“I just felt deep inside that we were on to something,” Crayton said.
From 2017 to 2018, the daughter-mother team opened Sienna Wings — named after their bedroom community in Missouri City — out of their home on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. Six deep fryers would be bubbling away in the kitchen and they lined chairs in their dining room as a waiting area. A dry-erase board listed the menu: a dozen wings for $11.95 and 20 pieces for $20.95. The pickup-only spot also sold mac and cheese as well as fries. They sold wings for school lunches, too.
They made about $40,000 in sales in that year and a half, according to Crayton.
“I’d go to school and my clothes and hair would smell like chicken,” Crayton said. “I was the manager, cashier, cook, dishwasher.”
Crayton fine-tuned the recipe for three Sienna Sauce flavors: original, lemon-pepper and spicy. They would bottle the sauces by hand before finding a co-packer to mass produce the line.
The big break came in 2021 when Crayton landed on “Shark Tank,” and one of the judges, Kendra Scott, gave a verbal agreement on television to back Sienna Sauce for $100,000 and part ownership.
It catapulted the demand for Sienna Sauce, although Crayton said she’s never received the “Shark Tank” payment. (Kendra Scott’s team did not respond to questions, but earlier this year had said they were still working on the terms of the agreement.)
Sienna Sauce is sold at H-E-B, Target, Wegman’s and other national stores, but opening a restaurant is a “full-circle moment for me,” Crayton said.
While Sienna Wings, 4603 Sienna Parkway, feels like a food court, Crayton said it’s only the first location of a concept she wants to grow. The menu will feature four flavors of Sienna Sauce for the wings.
Her mother will run the restaurant while Crayton finishes up her last two years at the University of California, Berkeley. She says she’ll handle operations remotely and come back to Houston as often as she can.
“I honestly want to show the world that anything is possible, even at a young age,” Crayton said. “It took us a while to get here, but I’m really humbled to show the world what we’re doing.”