“Snap, Crackle & Pop with a Cereal Entrepreneur” Transcript
Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad, you are listening to Radio Cherry Bombe and I'm your host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. First, let's thank our sponsor. Handsome Brook Farm, pasture raised, organic eggs. Handsome Brook Farm's secret to making rich, flavorful eggs is simple. The most possible space, the best possible feed and lots of love. It's a healthy and humane recipe that makes your omelets, cakes, custards and everything in between taste better. To learn more and to find their eggs visit handsomebrookfarm.com.
Kerry Diamond: Now to today's episode. This is a unique one folks. When was the last time you made Rice Krispie treats? How about a Rice Krispie treat portrait of Oprah? Today's guest made one of those just a few weeks ago. Jessica Siskin is a Rice Krispie treat artist. Yes, that is her full-time job. She's known professionally as Mister Krispie and she came by Cherry Bombe HQ to talk about her journey from working in fashion to fashioning people, places and things with cereal. Also, Jessica gives great advice about how to build your brand through collaborations.
Kerry Diamond: Before we get started, let's hear a word from our sponsor: Handsome Brook Farm, pasture raised, organic eggs.
Kerry Diamond: Handsome Brook Farm believes that organic and pastured is the way to go when it comes to eggs. Pasture raised means better lives for hens, better lives for small farmers and better eggs for you. It's also better for chefs who depend on rich, flavorful eggs. Handsome Brook Farm's own flock of amazing chefs their mother hens count on it. Suzanne Vizethann is a mother hen. She's the chef and owner of Buttermilk Kitchen in Atlanta. Curious how chef Suzanne makes her french toast with caramelized bananas? The ingredients include: Bananas, whole milk, ciabatta bread and some Handsome Brook Farm eggs to make each slice as fluffy as can be.
Kerry Diamond: Or if you're like me and have a serious love affair with pimento cheese, you can make her pimento cheese omelet. Suzanne whips up three Handsome Brook Farm eggs, lets the omelet set, then adds red pepper jelly, thick cut bacon and my beloved pimento cheese to put a delicious southern spin on a breakfast favorite. You can find chef Suzanne's delicious egg-centric recipes and videos on handsomebrookfarm.com.
Kerry Diamond: If you're looking for Handsome Brook Farm organic, pasteurized eggs, you can find them at Publix, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, Fresh Direct and many natural food stores across the country.
Kerry Diamond: Ready for some snap, crackle and pop? Here's my conversation with Jessica Siskin.
Kerry Diamond: Welcome to radio Cherry Bombe.
Jessica Siskin: Thank you so much for having me.
Kerry Diamond: It's your first time on the show.
Jessica Siskin: It is. It's the dream.
Kerry Diamond: You have one of the most interesting careers in the food world.
Jessica Siskin: It is pretty interesting.
Kerry Diamond: When you meet people at a party and they say, "What do you do for a living?" What is your answer?
Jessica Siskin: So, I go through this a lot because I'm single and I also date. So, I always say, "Oh, my job, it's pretty weird." Then people are sort of waiting to hear what I say and then I say, "I'm a food artist." And then they say, "Oh, do you work with all kinds of foods?" And I say, "No, I just work with specifically Rice Krispies treats. I'm a Rice Krispies treats artist." And then, usually I end up pulling out my Instagram pretty quickly because people get very confused.
Kerry Diamond: Does this help you in the dating world or hurt you in the dating world?
Jessica Siskin: I think it might hurt me. I don't know. I'm still single, so ...
Kerry Diamond: But what is it about Rice Krispie treats? Why is that so loved as a recipe? People of all ages.
Jessica Siskin: I mean, what could be bad? It's butter. Everyone loves butter. Marshmallows, sugar and then a crunchy cereal. So, it has the texture, the flavor. It's also so easy to make. You can leave it out on your counter for a few days and enjoy it. And it's just something you can involve kids in, which I think is why people have such childhood memories.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, that's got to be it. Can I make a confession? I've never made Rice Krispie treats.
Jessica Siskin: Really? Should we do it right now? I bet you we can.
Kerry Diamond: We could. We could, actually.
Jessica Siskin: It would take all of three minutes.
Kerry Diamond: What is an artisanal Rice Krispie treat?
Jessica Siskin: There are actually a lot of artisanal flavors. I was [crosstalk 00:04:33]
Kerry Diamond: 'Cause there are fancy marshmallows now and fancy sugar and-
Jessica Siskin: So, you can make your own marshmallows, which is definitely a thing. It's a little too complicated for me. I mean, the reason I got into Rice Krispie treat art is because it is so easy. So yeah, you can use browned butter, that's a thing. And then you can also involve all sorts of ingredients. So, recently I made them seed and mill tahini in there [crosstalk 00:04:52]
Kerry Diamond: Oh, gosh. We love seed and mill.
Jessica Siskin: But yeah, it's the best. I am about to make ... I haven't done it yet, but I'm about to use that granola butter. Have you guys tried that yet?
Kerry Diamond: Granola butter. Tell us more-
Jessica Siskin: It is the coolest thing. I came across it on Instagram. It is liquified, essentially oatmeal cookie. It tastes amazing. So, I went to Pressed Juicery to try it as a topping and it was so good that I reached out to them. I was like, "I'd love to put these in some treats." So they sent it to me and I'm excited to put it into the treats, if I don't eat it all first.
Kerry Diamond: Very cool. So, if any of you are listening and you have made artisanal Rice Krispie treats, I want you to tag me because I'm so curious. Is there such a thing as a savory Rice Krispie treat?
Jessica Siskin: So, I actually have seen savory Rice Krispies treats. I personally haven't eaten them.
Kerry Diamond: What's the binding agent?
Jessica Siskin: So, people have used cheese I've seen on Instagram. I think like Parmesan. I've also seen people use the sweet Rice Krispies treat as a base for something savory. So, I actually saw something on Instagram a while ago, it was like a caprese sandwich on a Rice Krispies treat.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my god. God bless America.
Jessica Siskin: Right?
Kerry Diamond: That is so funny. So, let's go back to your childhood. Where did you grow up?
Jessica Siskin: I grew up in Long Island.
Kerry Diamond: What was life like when you were a kid? Who cooked?
Jessica Siskin: So, I grew up with my sister who's two years younger than me and I had a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. So that was pretty novel. It actually still is pretty novel.
Kerry Diamond: It is, yeah.
Jessica Siskin: But it was pretty novel at the time. I always thought it was super cool. And so, I come from a very creative family. My mom is an executive and creative director at a fashion company.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, which one?
Jessica Siskin: It's called Cinq à Sept. She's been in the fashion industry my entire life. And my dad would always do creative projects with my sister and I. So, whether that was ... People always ask me if I remember making Rice Krispies treats as a kid. I wasn't so into cooking, I'm still not, but I think we must've made them. I definitely remember them being around, but we'd do all kinds of creative art projects.
Kerry Diamond: Such as?
Jessica Siskin: I remember we would buy these books that had all these projects in them and go through it. So, we would melt crayons and dip rocks in them. We were really into construction paper projects and sculpy clay. So, my sister and I would make these sculptures and then we'd fire them in the oven and then what do you do with them?
Kerry Diamond: That's so cool.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, but I think that's sort of where my sculpting interest comes from.
Kerry Diamond: And then, you said you didn't cook. Who cooked at home?
Jessica Siskin: I did not cook. My dad cooked.
Kerry Diamond: And was he a good cook?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, he was. So, it was always pretty standard, like repeating the same things throughout the weeks, but I always loved it.
Kerry Diamond: And you're the take your daughter to work day generation.
Jessica Siskin: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: So, were you going to work with your mom-
Jessica Siskin: All the time, so-
Kerry Diamond: -when you were a kid?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, so we'd go to work and they'd set up in the conference room for us a bunch of fabric scraps and glue and we would make some projects. I always loved projects, so ...
Kerry Diamond: So, you did go to college. Where did you go to college?
Jessica Siskin: I went to NYU. So, I've been in the city for a very long time. I never intended to go to NYU, I actually really wanted to go ... There was a program at Cornell that I really, really wanted to go to. It was in the school of human ecology and it was some weird ergonomics, fashion hybrid. And I got in for my sophomore year and I was like, "All right, I'll go to NYU for freshman year and then I'll go up there." And I never ended up going. I stayed here. So, I was at NYU and because I was in the city, I was interning all the time.
Kerry Diamond: So, tell me where you interned.
Jessica Siskin: So, I would intern for my mom's companies all throughout college, but I also-
Kerry Diamond: Little nepotism.
Jessica Siskin: -yeah, a little bit. You know what's funny? So, my mom is on the sales side of fashion and I really wanted to intern on the buying side and nobody would hire me because they thought I would be a little snitch.
Kerry Diamond: Oh no.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, they thought it would complicate things, but I had a great internship at Teen Vogue. Yeah, so I was sort of in the working world while I was in college. I went to the Gallatin School where anything counts as a credit. So, a lot of my credits were interning, which was great.
Kerry Diamond: So, what did you wind up doing when you left college?
Jessica Siskin: So, I graduated a year early and I thought that was going to be it. I never really thought about it realistically, but I was like, "Oh, I'll graduate a year early and I can hangout for a year." I had a boyfriend at the time who was in school at Cornell. So, I was like, "Oh, I'll just go spend the year at Cornell. I can take some classes, have a good time." And then that rolled around and that obviously wasn't happening and so my mom was like, "You need to get a job." And I was like, "All right. I want to work for you." She was like, "You can't work for me. The reason why I'm so good at what I do is because I had the opportunity to learn from a lot of different people and if your intention is to come work for me forever, I want you to have that opportunity yourself."
Jessica Siskin: So, I was sort of like, "Maybe I'll be able to wear her down." Because I was really not interested in that and all my friends were still in college. Nobody had a class on Fridays, everyone was traveling, it's your senior year. So, I was just not interested in hitting the ground running. I knew I had the rest of my life to work. I kept interning and eventually someone who became my boss later on was like, "We're starting this division right now and Jessica actually knows how to work the systems. She knows the culture here. Let's hire her and we'll see what happens." And I sort of was expecting to stay maybe a year and seven years later I finally left.
Kerry Diamond: Wow, seven years.
Jessica Siskin: Seven years.
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Jessica Siskin: It was wild, yeah.
Kerry Diamond: And what were you doing in that time.
Jessica Siskin: So, I was managing the department store sales for a brand called Elizabeth and James. So, that was a partnership to my mom and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen and that was-
Kerry Diamond: Wait, who?
Jessica Siskin: That was a really, really fun ride. When we first started it was a really small team and so I was able to be involved in design and merchandising and of course my sales role. But as it grew and became more successful, I was really siloed into sales and I started to get a little bit ... I was creatively unfulfilled I think. I was using my-
Kerry Diamond: What were you doing to fulfill that side of you?
Jessica Siskin: So, I started to write at my desk a lot. I discovered [crosstalk 00:11:19]
Kerry Diamond: What would you write?
Jessica Siskin: So, around that time I discovered Modern Love in the New York Times, so I started to write these terrible Modern Loves. They were awful. They were all about trying to get over a breakup in the time of technology. With Instagram, people never went away. And that was when Instagram was so rudimentary too. So, it's even harder now. So, I was writing these weird Modern Loves and [crosstalk 00:11:43]
Kerry Diamond: Did you submit any of them?
Jessica Siskin: I never submitted any of them and I'm glad that I didn't, because a few years later I took a class and Dan Jones came in and he's the editor of Modern Love and he said, "Never submit anything unless you really, really think it's your best work, because I remember everything and everyone."
Kerry Diamond: Wow.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, so I'm glad that I have not submitted yet. I will one day submit a Modern Love, I just haven't found my exact story yet.
Kerry Diamond: Rice Krispies, a love story.
Jessica Siskin: It might be. So, I was writing at my desk and then, eventually I started to take writing classes at night at the new school. And so then I was not only writing at my desk, I was reading my classmates work at my desk and I was still getting my work done. And sort of something I've learned now that I've gone out and work on my own is being able to manage your own time. You're so much more productive, because I would be chained to a desk and just trying to find things to entertain myself sometimes.
Kerry Diamond: I also think there should be four day work week. I really believe that five days is too many days. And people ... Not when you work in a restaurant though. When you work in a restaurant, there's no goofing off time and all that, it's just like work, work, work. And there are other industries like that. But I don't know. When you work at a big corporation, I feel like there's so much goofing off time and it would make me crazy. I was like, four day work week, give people three days off. It'll be great for the economy. People will be so focused during those four days.
Jessica Siskin: It's true.
Kerry Diamond: Maybe we'll implement that at Cherry Bombe. Jess our producer is doing cartwheels over there, you can't see that.
Jessica Siskin: I'm totally with you on that.
Kerry Diamond: Had you started cooking or baking at this point?
Jessica Siskin: So, no. I mean, let me be honest, I still don't cook. Only Rice Krispies treats. So, around this time, so I was taking the writing classes and I was also doing other weird creative things when I'd get home. And I didn't even realize what I was doing, but I would build ... I remember I was in market in LA at work and I made a ... I don't even know why. There were these colored Tootsie Rolls and I made a cheeseburger out of these little Tootsie Rolls.
Kerry Diamond: This is how it all started.
Jessica Siskin: It really is. I would do water colors and I would always paint food. So, I did a bagel and [inaudible 00:13:44] I did an ice cream cone, a cheeseburger of course. I was just doing these weird art projects all the time and in ... I think it was like 2011, there was a blizzard and I went over to my best friend's apartment. She was like, "Let's make Rice Krispies treats. And I was like, "Oh, this is going to take a while." And she pulled it together in five minutes. I was like, "Wait, I could do this. This is something that I'm capable of."
Jessica Siskin: And around that time I moved. I think I was around 27 and I was like, "I'm an adult and when my friends come over I'm going to entertain and I am going to cook for them." And the only thing I know how to make is Rice Krispies treats. So, I would make them [crosstalk 00:14:22]
Kerry Diamond: Did you have to say Rice Krispies treats.
Jessica Siskin: That's what I say because they're treats made out of Rice Krispies.
Kerry Diamond: You don't make it singular. Rice Krispie treats.
Jessica Siskin: I think it came from the times I've worked with Kellogg's and that felt like the correct language. 'Cause that's what even the packaged ones, they say Rice Krispies treats. Back then I was making Rice Krispie treats, 'cause I didn't know.
Kerry Diamond: So, it's the blizzard.
Jessica Siskin: So, I learned how to make them and then I'd make them whenever my friends came over. So [crosstalk 00:14:49]
Kerry Diamond: The recipe at all or was it just straight off the box?
Jessica Siskin: Not even a little bit, it was the recipe off the box, but then when it came out of the pot, I'd mold it into a heart or a star or something a little bit novel. Because I am a creative person and this was in me somewhere. So, I would always make a heart or star. I remember one year on Valentine's Day, my friends and I, we were all single. So, I cut jagged edge down the middle of the heart. I actually posted that one on Instagram. It was like 2012 I want to say.
Kerry Diamond: That was an ah-hah moment, the food coloring?
Jessica Siskin: That was a huge ah-hah moment. So, we put the food coloring in and I couldn't believe how vividly it pigmented the treats. And at that moment ... That was my ah-hah moment, 'cause it was like Oprah was speaking to me. It was like, "You need to make a Rice Krispies treat cheeseburger. So, that was on a Saturday I think we made that. And then on Sunday night ... I remember the night so vividly. I had dinner with a couple of friends who went to Mission Chinese.
Jessica Siskin: And then, the seasoned finale of Homeland was on. And I really wanted to watch it. This was back when people actually watched Homeland. I dropped it after this. But I went into my kitchen and I made all the pieces of the burger separately, which is also not how I do it now. And then I stacked them all together and I screamed out loud, because I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I just could not believe that I had created this. And it ... By the way, I look at it now, it does not look good at all. I've gotten a lot better at this, but at the time I was just blown away.
Jessica Siskin: So, I took a picture and I posted it on Instagram on that Sunday night and I woke up in the morning and I had like 100 likes for the first time. And all of these people that I barely knew who followed me were messaging me being like, "This is so cool. Let's hangout." All of a sudden I had all this attention. And I brought it into work at Elizabeth and James and it was really [crosstalk 00:17:30]
Kerry Diamond: And the Olsen sisters were like, "This is the best thing we've ever seen."
Jessica Siskin: I wonder when they became aware of it, because they were super supportive. But I don't think it happened that quickly, but it was a really fun 24 hours.
Kerry Diamond: That's crazy. When did the name Mister Krisp come to you?
Jessica Siskin: That's a great question. I think so, I was just experimenting over the course of the next year with treats. And it was around September, October 2013 I started to notice content based accounts popping up on Instagram. It was just so not a thing before. Instagram, it was so not even close to what it is now. Back when you saw every post that someone posted. What a beautiful time. But I think around then I decided that I wanted to start an Instagram account. And I put it up and took it down a bunch of times. And I was playing with different ideas.
Kerry Diamond: That's so interesting that you put it up and took it down.
Jessica Siskin: Oh yeah. No, it just felt like such an exposed place to be. It was also in this time when it was like, "Well, why should anybody want to pay attention to me?" Which is ... Now, everybody wakes up and wants to be an influencer, but back then it just felt like I was asking for all this attention that I wasn't sure I wanted or needed. So, I remember I was going to call it 'My Treat.' Everyone was like, "Call it Krispie Creations." Or something like that. And then, I don't know. It just came to me.
Jessica Siskin: So, Mister Krisp is the name of the villain in Sister Act 2, which is one of my favorite movies. It has the best musical and dance sequence of all films ever. You could just watch the last 20 minutes to be honest, but it's excellent. So, Mister Krisp is the bad guy.
Kerry Diamond: Who played Mister Krisp?
Jessica Siskin: James Coburn. But yeah, so that's where the name came from. But I gave it a 'K' instead of a 'C.' And I put the Instagram up and I threw a few pictures up there of things that I'd made. And on the first day that it went live, I got three orders, which was wild.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's crazy.
Jessica Siskin: So, I used to say this when I was 27, I'd be like, "It was really cool to start a business when I was older, because my friends were in a position of influence at the companies they were working at." But it's kind of true that when I was 27, my friends at the businesses where they were employed, they were the oldest employees that knew how to use social media. So-
Kerry Diamond: Or the only.
Jessica Siskin: Or the only. So, they were the ones who were in control of the Instagram accounts for these huge brands. And there were no strategies.
Kerry Diamond: That was such a funny time.
Jessica Siskin: It was.
Kerry Diamond: I almost got fired because I put Lancome on Facebook.
Jessica Siskin: Really?
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. I got in so much trouble. Can you believe?
Jessica Siskin: There were no rules and there was no strategy. Now people are planning what they put up. They have brand bibles and they have a real idea of their aesthetic and their grid. People plan out their grid weeks in advance. It used to be like, "I could send somebody something and they'd just put it up." And that was really cool because at the time I was just being discovered left and right. And I remember as I got three order emails I didn't have my email on my Blackberry at the time, so I remember I went back to my desk and I had these emails for orders. And I ran downstairs to my mom's office and I was like, "People want to order these. What do I do?" And she goes, "Pretend you're a real company. Take the orders." And I did.
Kerry Diamond: Do you remember what they were for?
Jessica Siskin: So, I remember two of them. One of them I could look it up. But so one of them was for a denim brand and they were doing an editor breakfast and they wanted different breakfast foods made out of treats. And I remember I just pretended I was a real company. I showed up with them in bakery boxes and I had a chalkboard where I wrote the menu that I brought them.
Kerry Diamond: You probably lost the menu on that first order.
Jessica Siskin: Or for sure. Definitely. The other one was for an engagement and I did these treats that had ... Which is so not something I'd do anymore, they were just cut up treats with ring pops in them. Yeah, it used to be that I'd get a lot of orders for individual, bite-sized treats and now I've moved more into making cake style treats as I call them.
Kerry Diamond: You start getting these orders, you still have this day job.
Jessica Siskin: Yes, I still have this day job.
Kerry Diamond: What happens next?
Jessica Siskin: So, I had been taking at this point, the same creative writing classes for like four semesters. And I remember one of my teachers who I love, I'm still in touch with. She was like, "Jessica, you need to either go get an MFA or stop coming here because it's not fair to you, it's not fair to the other students. There's only so much you could learn from taking the same course and doing the same readings over and over."
Jessica Siskin: So, I really wanted to get an MFA. I'd by the way never even heard of an MFA until she mentioned it to me. So, I went into an information session. I was like, "Wow, this really, actually does sound like it's for me. Like something I want to do." So, I remember I said to my mom, I was like, "Okay, I want to go get an MFA. It's full-time." And she was like, "All right, well you need to work. You can't just go back to school." So, I had come up with this idea and I started getting these orders and I realized this could be my part-time job while I was in school.
Jessica Siskin: So, I spoke to my mom around then and I don't remember if I brought it up to her or if she brought it up to me, but we decided ... I started the Instagram in October, we decided that after New Year's I wouldn't come back and I'd apply at a school. And I'd start to grow this business. And so, I started my MFA in it was like August of 2014 and it was a two year program. And by the time I graduated, I had a full-blown business. So ...
Kerry Diamond: Tell us what that means, a full-blown business.
Jessica Siskin: So, I had-
Kerry Diamond: How many orders were you getting? Did you have employees?
Jessica Siskin: So, I still don't have any employees, but when I started school, I remember people were constantly, always so charmed by what I did on the side. And the question I got every single day was like, "Oh, have you worked with Rice Krispies yet? Have they reached out to you?" And I was always really nervous because I felt like I'd either hear from Rice Krispies and it would be like, "Amazing. We want to hire you." Or it would be cease and assist. It was going to be 50/50. So, I was waiting, but I was really nervous. It was like, "I want them to find out about me, but I don't know." It made me a little nervous.
Jessica Siskin: But I remember I got the trademark for Mister Krisp, I was feeling a little bit better about it. And then, they reached out to me while I was at my first semester. And they said that they were doing a holiday program and they wanted my help promoting it. And so, I remember they asked me what my rate was and I gave them such a low number. It's so embarrassing at this point. And then came back to me [crosstalk 00:24:03]
Kerry Diamond: This is good for people to know. Are you comfortable saying what the number is.
Jessica Siskin: So, this was the first year we worked together.
Kerry Diamond: Because people never know what to charge.
Jessica Siskin: Well, I still don't know, but right when I was getting started and they had said to me, "We have ... " And it was a ton of work. It was editor gifts for 20 people, it was a week of desk sides and other meetings and things. And I was like, "Okay, $2,000." And they-
Kerry Diamond: For the whole project?
Jessica Siskin: For the whole project. And they came back to me and they're like, "What if we gave you $10,000 and we added more work."
Kerry Diamond: Wow. You're really lucky, that doesn't always happen.
Jessica Siskin: No, but I was like, "Okay." But by the way, this team that I had worked with that year was awesome. I loved working with them.
Kerry Diamond: That's great. It's nice that they didn't take advantage of you.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, no. That was a wonderful experience. So, around that time ... So, I worked with Kellogg's and then what happened was when I worked with Kellogg's, I got a ton of press. And back then press really made a difference in a way. It just doesn't anymore. People would go find you on Instagram. People were looking for accounts to follow as opposed to now where they're just looking for accounts to unfollow. Everyone's like Marie Kondo-ing their Instagram. But-
Kerry Diamond: You're the first person I heard describe it that way.
Jessica Siskin: It's true. So, at that point I got a lot of press. And this girl messaged me on Facebook and she was like, "You don't know me, but we have mutual friends. I'm a literary agent and you need to write a book. Can we get on the phone?" And I was like, "Sure, I'll take this call." So, we get on the phone and she's this girl and she's super scrappy and she's a Jewish girl from the Tri-state area. We have a million friends in common. And she's like, "Okay, so we're going to put together a proposal and you're going to write a book." I was like, "Thank you so much. I'm actually getting my master's degree."
Jessica Siskin: And at this point also when you're in an MFA program, you are just the literary writer of your generation. You are so busy on your weird, deconstructed, braided essay or whatever you're working on. So, I was so clouded. I was like, "Okay, cool. When I graduate, it's going to be the first thing on my list." She was like, "No, you need to do it now. You're hot, you're getting press. You need to do it right now." I was like, "All right. I'll see if I can pull together a proposal."
Jessica Siskin: She was talking to me for like a year until I put together a proposal. And then I worked with Kellogg's again, the following year I got a ton of press again and she was like, "Okay, this is it. This is the moment. We're going to do this." So we put together a proposal, went out to some publishers, got a book deal. My graduate thesis was due in June of 2016 and my pages were due for the book, like my final pages were due a month later. So, I was not okay.
Kerry Diamond: So, what was the book? Was it a cook book? Was it a memoir? Was it a combo?
Jessica Siskin: So, I ... In my head, I wanted it to be this really cool literary combo. I was really into cross-genre when I was in school. And so I had this-
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, publishers love that.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I had to say yeah. So, I had a call with a publisher and this is hysterical. So, all of the publisher meetings were in person, but there was one that was a call and I'll never forget. She had asked me for some references of other books that might be similar to it. I swear I was naming like Maggie Nelson. I was like, "Have you read the The Argonauts?" It was out of control. I never heard from that publisher again.
Jessica Siskin: And the publisher that I did end up going with was the last meeting of the day and I think by that point, I'd gotten all of my literary obnoxiousness out. But I really had an idea that it was going to be ... When I was in school, I was constantly being encouraged by my professors to be writing about this. And the way that I was doing it, like I was writing these essays that were written in the form of a recipe. I was just doing real MFA kind of stuff.
Kerry Diamond: I think you should write a short story from the point of view of a single Rice Krispie.
Jessica Siskin: Of a single Rice Krispie. I should. I wear a gold Rice Krispie necklace.
Kerry Diamond: You do?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I can pull it out, but yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Is it a gold-plated Rice Krispie?
Jessica Siskin: It's a-
Kerry Diamond: Or it's in the shape of a Rice Krispie?
Jessica Siskin: It's the shape of a Rice Krispie. It's right next to my heart. But yeah, so I really wanted it to be a cool literary book. It ended up being a super commercial cookbook. One recipe, but 93 different projects. Things that people all over the world can replicate.
Kerry Diamond: That's fun.
Jessica Siskin: It was so fun.
Kerry Diamond: I'm thinking back to you and your dad melting crayons and rolling them in rocks.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, exactly.
Kerry Diamond: And doing projects and books.
Jessica Siskin: And that's what I hope for. That's really what I hope for for people. I hope that people are crafting with food. I think crafting is really fun and I love doing it, but there's something kind of sad about working really hard on something and then having this useless craft that you put in a box and eventually throw away. And I love how fleeting Rice Krispies treats are. How you make something beautiful, you take a picture and then you eat it.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I do think that has a lot to do with the popularity of baking today, cooking, sharing everything on social media.
Jessica Siskin: For sure.
Kerry Diamond: It's essentially a craft that does not go to waste.
Jessica Siskin: Right. I love that, because I look back on these things that I was so proud of in my childhood and it's sort of sad now.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, but it all got you where you are today.
Jessica Siskin: Where are they? Exactly.
Kerry Diamond: All right. So, I'm still blown away that you make a living doing what you do. Do you take custom orders?
Jessica Siskin: Yes. So, I take custom orders. Anywhere between ... Like some weeks I'll only take a few 'cause I'll be working on other things and some weeks I'll take up to 20. I think the most I've ever done in a week was like 26, which was a rough week.
Kerry Diamond: Wow. What's the most unique order you ever got?
Jessica Siskin: The most unique treat I've ever made. I always cop out and say, "Oh, I did an entire holiday window out of Rice Krispies treats with Kellogg's." Which is true. They rented out a window space on 57th Street and we did a whole window. And then we did it again a little different the following year in Union Square, which it's so fun and so cool. But nothing is a weird Rice Krispies treat, once you start saying I'm going to make objects, nothing is that strange.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Jess Zeidman: Hi everybody, it's Jess. Time for a little housekeeping. Looking to fall in love with a new podcast? How about our latest miniseries, 'The Future of Food.' Last year the Cherry Bombe team stopped in Nashville, Chicago, Dallas and so many more cities to ask the Bombesquad what's next for them and for the food world. All 10 episodes are out now and available to download wherever you get your podcasts.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you Jess. Let's get back to my conversation with Jessica.
Kerry Diamond: I have a question no one's ever asked you. What's the connection between Rice Krispies treats and feminism? I don't know there's an answer.
Jessica Siskin: So, I will tell you. I actually do believe there is an answer and relates directly to sort of how I've decided to live my life. I think that I grew up in a situation where, even though my parents didn't define themselves as feminists, I did have a very feminist upbringing. My mom was working, my dad was staying at home and taking all of those domestic duties. And it really worked for my family.
Jessica Siskin: And as I got older I never really thought of myself as somebody who wanted to be in the kitchen, wanted to be cooking, like that idea that a woman's place is in the kitchen, it did not appeal to me in any way. And I eventually found myself in the kitchen making Rice Krispies treats while I was studying feminism. And I think when I started to learn about choice feminism, which a lot of people disagree with. I happen to believe choice feminism is valid. But for me, it's this idea-
Kerry Diamond: Explain that concept for people who don't know what it is.
Jessica Siskin: Choice feminism is the idea that just by actively choosing to engage in an act as a woman, it's a feminist act. So, a lot of people use it to argue for or against, like that Kim Kardashian posting a naked selfie. Is that a feminist act or not? Personally, I believe if the intention's there, it is. And I can argue about this all day long.
Jessica Siskin: But for me, the idea of taking back the kitchen and saying that I'm going to be in this traditionally feminine domestic space, but I'm going to be a boss in that space. And I'm going to create a business out of that space is really cool and I feel a lot of women ... I mean, I've become friends with so many women in this industry and seeing the way that they're all in their different ways taking back that domesticity of cooking and being in the kitchen is really, really cool to watch.
Kerry Diamond: And owning it, yeah. Another thing that just crossed my mind, your career wouldn't exist without social media.
Jessica Siskin: Oh, no. Definitely not. I always say I couldn't have started what I did a day earlier or a day later. I had started at the perfect time.
Kerry Diamond: So, how do you know today what to charge? Whether it's for a custom creation, a collaboration ...
Jessica Siskin: So, I have pretty standardized pricing for my orders. I basically charge based on how long it takes me. I have a premium on my time and that's how I handle orders. As far as partnerships, it's similar. It's about really how much it's going to take. I used to also not really charge for the time that I was spending. I would really only charge for my kitchen time. I wouldn't charge for the time I was spending working out contracts, ideating and things like that. So, now I'm starting to learn to count that in.
Kerry Diamond: How do you know what's too high and too low?
Jessica Siskin: They'll tell you. So, if I give-
Kerry Diamond: Okay, good advice.
Jessica Siskin: -a price that's too high is-
Kerry Diamond: You're not afraid that they'll just walk away?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I mean, it depends who you're working with. 'Cause I have some customers where I'll write back with a price and I'll never hear from them again. But if it's an order that I want to do, like if it's a really cool idea or something that I can use for content also, sometimes I'll follow-up if I'm not too busy. I'll follow-up and I'll be like, "Hey, was this price too high for you? Open to negotiating." So, that's [crosstalk 00:33:42]
Kerry Diamond: That second.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I give my real price first, but if I can use something for content, I'll be a little bit more flexible. Because at this point, new content for me, it's really hard because I'm doing a lot of the same orders over and over. It used to be that everything I did was new. And now I'm doing a lot of repeats and I'm also doing a lot of really specific things. Like I do a lot of portraits and Bitmojis and things like that that don't perform well on my feed. And so I'm running a business, but I'm also running a social media account that's part of my business. So thinking about that in a smart way.
Kerry Diamond: What have some of the fun collaborations been?
Jessica Siskin: I've done some really fun collaborations. So, aside from Kellogg's, which was really cool. I did something ... It's one of my fondest memories. I did a campaign with Google Pixel almost two years ago and it was this amazing ... Sorry, it was like a special issue of Bon Appetit that came with the holiday issue and it was ... They profiled three creators, so it was me and actually Linda from Salty's Seattle, who I love. And someone else.
Jessica Siskin: And they had this beautiful shoot set up. So, we had a studio space in Chelsea. There was a wardrobe stylist, hair stylist, makeup, everything. It was beautiful, lighting, gorgeous, food stylist and then the entire thing was shot on a Google Pixel. So, there was this serious photographer running around, you have all this pomp and circumstance, you're getting ready for hours and then someone's shooting you on a phone. I thought it was the funniest thing I ever did and it came out so beautifully. I was so proud of that.
Jessica Siskin: But I love working with little brands just to get the word out about what they're doing. If there's a resonance with something, like what I was just saying about granola butter, I love to just reach out to people and promote each other just by nature of what we're doing.
Kerry Diamond: How have you diversified your income stream?
Jessica Siskin: So, it changes. So, I always rely on my orders and I always know that if everything else fails, the orders will come in. And so that's something that I definitely have gone through phases. Sometimes I'm really not taking orders 'cause I'm busy with other things. And sometimes it's all about the orders. Reaching out to brands that you've worked with before. And making it clear that you want to partner with them and work with them. I think that working in the fashion industry, which it's so funny, because I think people really don't know what it's like to work in fashion.
Jessica Siskin: Everybody knows about fashion and everybody knows about fashion week and everybody knows about the design houses and the way that works. But nobody knows how much of fashion is just pure business and partnership. And I think my understanding of partnership that comes from my fashion background has been really, really helpful. I'll call somebody that I've worked with before and I'll say, "I thought we were partners. I haven't heard from you in a while. I'd really like to develop a more robust and meaningful partnership and how can we do that?" And that's something that's very much the way the fashion industry functions. And not necessarily the way that other industries do. So-
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I hate the one-off collaboration. I mean, I don't hate it.
Jessica Siskin: No, but I think it's harder.
Kerry Diamond: I wouldn't even say it's harder, it's just I love a partner who I totally believe in and who we can kind of go deep with. And it is hard when it's just a one-off and you're trying to ... Especially for a brand like Cherry Bombe. We have a mission. We're very specific in what we do and if we love you and believe in you, we want to bring our whole community in and share that. But when you're just doing something one time.
Jessica Siskin: For sure. And also just ... I mean, the process of getting to know a partner and figuring out how they like to work and what their expectations are. I'd prefer to do that fewer times and just continue to work in those ways as opposed to building a new relationship every week. So-
Kerry Diamond: That's great advice. I bet a lot of people are afraid to reach out to someone they've already worked with and say, "Hey, what are we doing next?"
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I have not been afraid to do that. And at the end of the day, we're all doing really unique things and so there's not really a frame of reference. And I think to view ourselves as a business is really helpful, because-
Kerry Diamond: Now how do you deal with ... I don't want to use the word copycats, but the homage to Mister Krisp. I'm sure if I went on Pinterest right now, there are 8 million Rice Krispie treat things I could look up.
Jessica Siskin: Listen, imitation is a form of flattery, which is really easy to say when it's not taking money out of your pocket. I think on Pinterest for example, there are things ... People have been making art out of Rice Krispie treats before I was. People were making pumpkins and wreaths for Christmas. And there are a few things people have been doing, but I can tell when something's been inspired by what I'm doing.
Jessica Siskin: And then it becomes like, "Okay, well, is this somebody who's trying to make money off of it?" I'll feel one way about that. Or is it somebody who's just having a good time, which is what I want to do is inspire people to have a good time and be creative. My book has launched a few little businesses in cities. So, I don't ship my treats. One of my followers is in Minnesota and she started selling them and she's amazing. She's somebody who's really precise. I look at her work and I'm like, "Wow. This is really cool." And she does projects from my book and she sells them. And she creates her own designs as well and I'm like, "That's great." For her to do that, that's great.
Jessica Siskin: But there was a situation a few years ago where someone here started a competitive business and I got my back up a little bit, but at the end of the day, I was here first and you can see that. Everybody can bring their own style to it, but there's something about being authentic that makes a huge difference.
Kerry Diamond: You're Mister Krisp, dammit.
Jessica Siskin: I'm Mister Krisp.
Kerry Diamond: And you've made stuff for us.
Jessica Siskin: I have.
Kerry Diamond: Do you remember what you made us?
Jessica Siskin: I made you cherries didn't I? And then what else did I make you?
Kerry Diamond: I think you made us cherries for our book launch.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I made you cherries.
Kerry Diamond: And they were so delicious. I think it was frosted, is that possible?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I think so. I use frosting for things.
Kerry Diamond: I love anything with frosting.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, that's so funny. It's so cool to be able to work with brands like this though. That to me is what I've always dreamed of doing is partnering with other cool brands.
Kerry Diamond: What's your dream collaboration?
Jessica Siskin: That's a great question.
Kerry Diamond: Let's put it out there.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I mean my dream collaboration-
Kerry Diamond: Beyonce.
Jessica Siskin: -is ... Yeah, Beyonce, I would like to make her stage. No, I think just working with Kellogg's more.
Kerry Diamond: Her stage. Her stage out of Rice Krispies.
Jessica Siskin: Right? Just working with Kellogg's more and having a really meaningful partnership.
Kerry Diamond: You're remarkable.
Jessica Siskin: As are you, thank you,
Kerry Diamond: The fact that you have a career blows my mind. Only in the year 2019 in this age that we live in could Mister Krisp be a thing.
Jessica Siskin: It's true.
Kerry Diamond: And you make a living from being Mister Krisp.
Jessica Siskin: It's really fun.
Kerry Diamond: So, I'm blown away by all of that.
Jessica Siskin: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: We're going to do a speed round.
Jessica Siskin: Cool.
Kerry Diamond: 'Cause we have you here. So, let's do it.
Jessica Siskin: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?
Jessica Siskin: Anything from Hamilton. I'm back on Hamilton.
Kerry Diamond: You're back? Oh, good. Yeah, I guess I'm in an off Hamilton.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, I was off for like a year.
Kerry Diamond: Happy to be back on?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, back on.
Kerry Diamond: But it was an obsession.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Food you would never eat?
Jessica Siskin: Gefilte fish.
Kerry Diamond: Really?
Jessica Siskin: Hate it.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, we need to introduce you-
Jessica Siskin: The concept.
Kerry Diamond: Really?
Jessica Siskin: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: We need to introduce you to Gefilteria and Liz Alpern.
Jessica Siskin: I'm a little scared.
Kerry Diamond: But, we'll save that. Liz is going to come on the radio show.
Jessica Siskin: It's the one thing I won't eat. Perfect.
Kerry Diamond: Go-to snack?
Jessica Siskin: I love Mary's Crackers.
Kerry Diamond: They're great.
Jessica Siskin: I go through a box every two days.
Kerry Diamond: Don't you want to meet Mary?
Jessica Siskin: So, I mention that on Instagram all the time.
Kerry Diamond: Jess, can you find Mary for us? Yeah.
Jessica Siskin: And they never look at my messages.
Kerry Diamond: Wait, why did we never try to find Mary? I love those crackers. Every flavor.
Jessica Siskin: I love Mary. I need to meet Mary.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, original flavor-
Jessica Siskin: I'm going to stop by.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Maybe you could guest host that episode.
Jessica Siskin: Perfect, I'm in. So many questions for Mary.
Kerry Diamond: I'm going to be on the road for a bit. So many questions for Mary. Most treasured cookbook?
Jessica Siskin: Is it horrible to say my own? I don't cook.
Kerry Diamond: You're the first to say this, that's funny.
Jessica Siskin: Yeah, so I don't cook. So, for me, my most treasured cookbook is mine, 'cause it's the fact that I wrote a book.
Kerry Diamond: You go girl.
Jessica Siskin: I treasure it.
Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. Last book read, you can't say your book.
Jessica Siskin: The last book I read was Cherry by Nico Walker.
Kerry Diamond: Favorite kitchen implement or utensil?
Jessica Siskin: Oh, I have my huge Cuisinart cauldron I call it. It's a huge pot and-
Kerry Diamond: Your Cuisinart cauldron, what do you have one of those like extra large-
Jessica Siskin: So, it's a non-stick pot. I actually have two of them. I had three, I just got rid of one 'cause it was scraping. But that's what I make all my treats in.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, very cool. Okay.
Jessica Siskin: Yes, I love it.
Kerry Diamond: If you were going to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?
Jessica Siskin: That's a great question. Probably Chrissy Teigen. Is that everyone's answer?
Kerry Diamond: No, no, it's not.
Jessica Siskin: Oh really?
Kerry Diamond: Why Chrissy?
Jessica Siskin: She seems like a great time and she can cook, I can't. So I would need her.
Kerry Diamond: There you go. Bingo. All right. Well, it was so nice to hangout with you.
Jessica Siskin: This was amazing, thank you so much.
Kerry Diamond: I hope you come back.
Jessica Siskin: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: And thank you for your time.
Jessica Siskin: Thank you. This is great.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Tell everybody what your Instagram handle is so we can check it out.
Jessica Siskin: So, it's Mister_Krisp. That's M-I-S-T-E-R_K-R-I-S-P.
Kerry Diamond: So, check it out if you want a better look at what Mister Krisp is all about. Take care.
Jessica Siskin: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Jessica AKA Mister Krisp for sitting down and talking to me about all things Rice Krispies. If you want to see some of Jessica's incredible creations, be sure to follow her on Instagram or check out her book. Thank you to Handsome Brook Farm for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. For more, visit handsomebrookfarm.com. Radio Cherry Bombe's associate producer is the one and only Jess Zeidman and our theme song is by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening everyone, you're the Bombe.
CLIP FROM WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: I'll have what she's having.
Rebekah Shoaf: Hi, my name is Rebekah Shoaf and I'm the owner of Boogie Down Books, a book store without walls for kids, teens, families and educators in the Bronx and beyond. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Natalia Mendez, the chef owner at La Morada in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx, because in addition to serving absolutely incredible Oaxacan food in a restaurant with a library and amazing art, she and her family are using their space in the community and their voices as activists to support immigrant rights and Black Lives Matter and to challenge gentrification and unjust policing.