Chai Chaowaseree

Jo McGarry
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Friday - December 28, 2011 Share | | podcast Podcast |

Jo McGarry photo

Occupation: Chef/owner Singha Thai and Chai’s Island Bistro.

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Bangkok, Thailand. Actually, it’s my birthday on Saturday. Happy Birthday. You were so young when you opened Singha Thai! Thank you. Yes, I was only 25, 26.

Do you think there are many 25-year-olds who could open a restaurant business today and succeed as you have? You know, today ... I don’t think that young people are as mature as they were in the old days! And even though I had been brought up in the restaurant business, there were still a lot of things I didn’t understand. There’s so much more to it than just cooking. I was very fortunate. And I owe a lot to Hari Kojima. Once he put me on TV, things really took off for me.

You have the best, most colorful food stories from your childhood. (laughs) Yes, I do. I grew up around people who were passionate about cooking. I was sent to the market as a little kid to buy food every day for my family’s restaurant. I learned everything about being passionate from my parents. They taught me so much and nothing that could have been taught in school.

Do you cook at home? No! When people come over to my apartment they are shocked that I don’t cook. I don’t want to clean up; I’d rather go out.

So what’s in your fridge? Water and Pepsi or Coke. That’s it.

When you eat at Chai’s, what do you have? Oh, the staff and I have been eating here for so long that we all want to eat different food (laughs). Sometimes I tell them, oh, just order a pizza, please!

Where do you like to eat when you’re not ordering pizza at Chai’s? When I go out its usually late at night, after work, so I go to McCully Shopping Center mostly. I like Fook Yuen, of course. And there’s a very good shabu shabu place, Hot Pot Heaven. And I like to go to Phuket Thai.

Does the staff at Phuket Thai get nervous when you come in? No (laughs). We are all friends. We are all in the business and I love their food. They do a good job.

You have such a generous spirit and a positive outlook. Are you always that way? Yes, yes. Even though this is a very challenging time for restaurants and we all say how hard it is, I count my blessings. I look at people who are homeless who don’t have enough to eat and it makes me sad. It’s easy to count my blessings, even if things do seem hard sometimes.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people? I don’t eat any vegetables, and most of the chefs know this, so when I go out they never give me any vegetables. I see people eating salads and vegetables and they look so good and I do try them but I just don’t like them. My doctors say I am in top shape so I don’t worry!

Happy Birthday, Chai, and Happy New Year.

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