Pim Techamuanvivit on Kin Khao, Starting with What You Don’t Know + Breaking the Mold for Thai Cuisine

Pim Techamuanvivit grew up in Bangkok and has been an internationally renowned tastemaker with stints as a food blogger, author, and jam maker. But her greatest achievement to date may be as an award-winning restaurateur in San Francisco at Kin Khao. Opening its doors in 2014, Kin Khao (which literally means “eat rice”) quickly earned a well-deserved Michelin star. Here, she speaks with contributor Amy Sherman about her journey into the hospitality industry, her much-lauded, flavorful fare, and future plans for her acclaimed eatery. 

Pim Techamuanvivit

What prepared you most for being a restaurateur?

Everything prepared me! I’m not self taught; I learned from everybody and stole from everybody. Cooking Thai food is just cooking. What gave me the confidence was jam making. I was cooking for friends and family, and they loved it. And then when I made jam, it was so well received. So I thought, “Maybe I can try this.” It gave me the confidence to go professional. I’m a much better Thai cook than I am a jam maker. Also, I have something to contribute. I really feel like I have something to contribute to the conversation. It’s not just me; I’m a link in a very long chain. I don’t want the flavors I grew up on to disappear.

When I decided to get serious about it, I sat down and started a list of things I didn’t know — that was probably the smartest thing. There were things I knew nothing about, like running a professional kitchen, then I just worked my way through it. So it became like my road map.

It’s easy to look at a restaurant and think it’s so easy. People think it’s like having a dinner party every day when really it’s about putting trash bags into cans into every day.

Was finding the food you want to eat the motivation behind the restaurant?

Yes! You know, a lot of chefs, they are motivated by wanting to feed people. I like cooking for friends, but it’s more about wanting to feed me! I want the food to be available to me and others. I’m from Bangkok so I was exposed to food from everywhere. The menu is not really all Eastern or Southern Thai. I don’t understand why people aren’t making the food I want to eat.

Are there particular things that you find to be the most frustrating about being a restaurateur?

Having people think of it as not valued. For instance, why is my rabbit curry $32? It is because it’s almost an entire rabbit in a bowl; where else can you get that? At Saison, maybe. It feeds several people. There’s a lot of work going into it. The quality compares to any of the best restaurants. So, it’s disheartening. There are 29 ingredients in the Massaman curry paste — made from scratch. That’s the part that I struggle with. At the same time, I am sticking to my guns. This is how I’m going to do it. Our average check average is $40 or so per person. That includes drinks and food! Because we’re Thai, people don’t value it. I have to make peace with that.

Pim Techamuanvivit

What dishes are you most proud of on your menu?

It changes, but right now, all of the curries, because it’s so hard to get them right. I remember before we opened, I talked to distributors for things like fish sauce with lists with curry pastes. I told them I was making my curry pastes from scratch. They were shocked because it’s difficult and hard to get consistent. Thai ingredients are not standardized, such as chiles and lemongrass. If you ask my kitchen, they will say the curry station is the beast. It’s hard to get right. Everything we do is something we want to get right.

Why do you think so many Thai restaurants follow a formula of serving the same dishes?

A lot of Thai restaurants are not opened by people with culinary training in the cuisine; they are immigrants who want to open businesses. They are constrained by what they think people want. They think the “American taste” is going to keep them in business. Another constraint is what people value in ethnic cuisine. People think ethnic food has to be cheap. So they are constrained by that. You can’t do things from scratch, you can’t buy good ingredients if you are trying to be cheap. So they buy cheap prepped food. But you see it changing with some restaurants using good ingredients and better techniques. We are breaking the mold. I wanted to see if I could make it economically viable.Continue Reading

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport + ‘Reasonably Authentic’ Chinese Food

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Chef Stephanie Izard is not short on accolades. In addition to being named winner of Bravo’s Top Chef — along with being named fan favorite (she had my vote) — she earned James Beard’s Best Chef: Great Lakes award in 2013 and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef title in 2010.

The awards are well deserved. Izard is the Executive Chef/Partner of three beloved Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat (a diner and bakery), and her latest, Duck Duck Goat, an ode to what she calls “reasonably authentic” Chinese food. The menu boasts a menu of delights including Duck Eggrolls Nom‎ Wah style; Sichuan Eggplant & Goat Sausage; Sanbeiji (Taiwanese 3-cup chicken); and Slap Noodles with shrimp, goat sausage, eggplant, and mushroom. Bring it.

Andrea Strong spoke to Izard, who was very pregnant with her first baby due in late May, about becoming famous, naming her restaurant after a goat, and what to eat when you’re expecting.

Talking Shop with Stephanie Izard: On Goat, Being Recognized at the Airport & “Reasonably Authentic” Chinese Food

Growing up in Connecticut, how did you get into food?

I always think that chefs either grew up eating really good food or really bad food and had to learn to cook in order to eat. In my case, luckily, my mom was a great cook. She was always making things from all over the world. She was really into Asian food and would make tempura, moo shu pork, even sushi, alongside things like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. We would make a menu for the week and hang it on the fridge. My friends could look at it and decide what looked good and when they wanted to come over.

When did you know food would be your life?

I was the kid who was always watching Julia Child, but back in the early ’90s being a chef was not what people think it is today. It was not really a career. So my plan was to go to college and get a business degree.

And I guess looking back on it, I found a roundabout way to get into business. I went to the University of Michigan, and let’s just say it was a lot of fun (maybe a little too much fun for me) and I didn’t get into business school. I graduated and I felt lost. My dad actually suggested cooking school. He was the one who said, ‘You’ve always loved to cook, why not try it?’

Did you have an ‘Aha!’ moment where you knew it was the right decision? Continue Reading

Spring Soldiers: 11 Amazing Asparagus Dishes to Order Now

Asparagus might be the quintessential spring vegetable — and one of the earliest. Thick stalks or thin, asparagus makes an early appearance and is a perennial gift that keeps on giving to growers year after year. Succulent or tender and crisp, asparagus can play both supporting or starring roles, depending on the plate. Its versatility lies in its capacity for complementing a wide range of flavors, which is why you’ll find it featured in everything from salads and soup to pizza and sushi. Check out these amazing asparagus dishes to available right now at restaurants across the nation.

O Ku, Atlanta, Georgia
O Ku sushi offers traditional as well as modern and creative specialty rolls including some with seasonal ingredients such as the Lobster Temaki. Three buttered lobster hand rolls each come with a rainbow of green asparagus, finely shredded red beets, and a sprinkle of black volcano salt. Make a reservation at O Ku.

Asparagus Dishes

Indaco, Charleston, South Carolina
Easygoing asparagus also pairs particularly well with sweet creamy cheeses. Chef Kevin Getzewich of Charleston’s beloved rustic Italian eatery Indaco artfully arranges burrata with pickled strawberries, grilled and shaved asparagus, asparagus aioli, and a dusting of housemade granola. It’s a stunningly beautiful dish with modern Southern accents. Make a reservation at Indaco.

Asparagus dishes

Fig and Olive, West Hollywood, California
Inspired by the cuisine of the French Riviera, Fig and Olive adds asparagus to their spring menu in several different dishes. The Primavera Risotto made with Arborio rice features fresh green asparagus along with green peas, pea shoots, parmesan, garlic, and shallots. It’s fresh, healthful, and comforting all at the same time. Make a reservation at Fig and Olive.

Asparagus dishes

Volta, San Francisco, California
Chef Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin’s latest restaurant features modern French and Scandinavian flavors and occasionally deconstructed classics. The Hearts of Palm & Asparagus Salad is a solid example; it’s a seasonal dish of smoked salmon with blood orange and fried shallot sauce vierge. Make a reservation at Volta.

Asparagus dishes

La Pecora Bianca, New York, New York
Recently opened La Pecora Bianca features wholesome seasonal dishes made from locally sourced ingredients including this very Italian-inspired vegetable dish. Fresh asparagus is served with watercress, soft-boiled egg, pine nuts, and lemon ($12). Make a reservation at La Pecora Bianca.

Asparagus dishes

Brezza Cucina, Atlanta, Georgia
Jonathan Waxman’s Brezza Cucina offers eggs for brunch, sometimes on pizza and sometimes with pasta. But a current favorite is the charcoal grilled fresh asparagus paired with fried eggs and smoked salmon and topped with salsa verde. It’s a fresher approach to breakfast than Eggs Benedict but strikes some of the same savory notes. The dish changes seasonally and sometimes includes prosciutto rather than smoked salmon. Make a reservation at Brezza Cucina.

Asparagus dishes

Yebo Beach Haus, Atlanta, Georgia
This hot new restaurant in Buckhead offers South African flavors with an American flair. Biltong, a type of dried cured beef (think jerky!) accents the Shaved Asparagus Salad with heirloom tomatoes, radish, and poached egg for a combination that’s at once herbal, juicy, snappy, and lush. Make a reservation at Yebo Beach Haus.

Asparagus dishesContinue Reading

Introducing the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016 #OpenTable100

With the Victoria Day long weekend in the books and summer travel plans on our calendars, we are pleased to welcome the  season by unveiling the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016. The list reflects the combined opinions of more than 275,000 restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 1,700 restaurants in Canada.

Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016

Featuring restaurants that offer some of Canada’s most stunning views and dining experiences, the complete list includes winners in picturesque regions from coast to coast, all the way from Lake Country, British Columbia, to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Ontario leads all provinces with 41 winning restaurants, followed by British Columbia with 34, Alberta with 18, and Québec with 5.

The list of 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada is generated from more than 275,000 restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between May 1, 2015, and April 30, 2016. All restaurants with a minimum number of qualifying reviews and “overall” rating were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “great for outdoor dining” was selected as a special feature. Check out our slideshow below.

 

Based on this methodology, the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants 2016 in Canada according to OpenTable diners are as follows (in alphabetical order):Continue Reading