The show, which is in its sixth season, features seven food trucks competing against one another around the country for a $50,000 prize. Pho Nomenal Dumplings has made it two-thirds of the way through the season; two weeks remain until a winner is announced.
The truck has come a long way since opening a year and a half ago in Raleigh.
In 2013, Woo was working at an accounting firm after completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UNC in 2010 and 2011. However, she was looking for a job that would let her interact with the community more.
“I was always a people person,” she said. “Food was a means to an end.”
Luckily, she knew someone who felt the same way. Woo said she approached her high school friend and North Carolina State University graduate Sunny Lin about the idea of a food truck.
“Sunny and I always had a little bit of that entrepreneurial bug in us,” Woo said.
Neither Woo nor Lin had professional culinary training, but Woo said their Taiwanese heritage fostered an appreciation for food.
After raising money through a Kickstarter campaign, Pho Nomenal Dumplings opened in April 2014.
A year later, the Food Network contacted the two.
After applying, Pho Nomenal Dumplings officially became a contestant on “The Great Food Truck Race.”
Since each team on the show must have three people, Woo and Lin recruited another high school friend and N.C. State graduate, Becca Plumlee, to join them on the road.
Plumlee had often helped with the food truck during large events but still had a full-time job. She decided to take a leave of absence from work to be on the show.
“All I was thinking in my head was that these are my best friends,” Plumlee said. “Food, friends, road trip. Yes, I was down.”
Woo said UNC is a big reason why the food truck has been so successful.
“The Carolina Way instilled in me a sense of respect for everyone in the community,” she said. “It showed me that every fan you make is really important.”
Lin credits the food truck’s popularity on the show to the team’s dynamic.
“The reason why I feel like we’ve been embraced is because we have a really great partnership,” she said. “Sunny is the finesse. I’m the speed. Becca brings the motherly, loving attitude.”
Woo said she encourages all aspiring entrepreneurs at UNC to follow their dreams.
“If you have a good idea, a good team and jump with a little preparation, the net will appear, and things will work out,” she said. “If you don’t ever make that leap, it will always be a ‘what if?’”