Just six months into his post at Pakpao Thai, chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin left, or that was the official story. He won't divulge more than that "in the long term it's better for both me and the owners," Tiffanee Siri and Richard Ellman, also of Oak and Belly & Trumpet. Whatever the full story may be, as of January 1, Eddy was without a kitchen.
Last week he turned up in Fort Worth, with news of a restaurant in the works in Montgomery Plaza, the city's cultural district. Although he caught the attention of Dallas foodies with his authentic Thai food, the new joint, BITE, will serve modern American cuisine with global influences.
"Our concept is completely different than what I used to do in Dallas," he says. "The restaurant scene here in Fort Worth is up-and-coming, there are a lot of new restaurants and the people here are just now getting excited about food."
We spoke with Thretipthuangsin in December about his hot new Thai place, only to see him bounce before we hit publish. So we caught up with him this week to chat about Fort Worth, cooking at home and golfing. The interviews have been combined and edited for clarity.
Why Fort Worth? Opportunity presented itself and I took it. I love Dallas and I'm sure I will make my way back there at some point, but I also think Fort Worth is a good market. When it comes to food, the people out here are more practical than Dallas people.
But no more Thai food? I was ready to do something different and so I came up with this menu, which is very American, but I've added some global influences. Some of the featured menu items are the lamb meatballs with a fois gras crème sherry and braised short ribs with a balsamic glaze.
Pakpao opened in June. How long were you here in Dallas before that? I moved here about two weeks prior to the restaurant opening. I moved here for Pakpao.
How has Dallas been for you so far? Really good. I used to live in New York for a long time and one thing I like about Dallas is you still have the ethnic cuisine. You still have a lot of the variety of life: food and good museums. Although I haven't been to any of them yet, I like that the museums are here. If you take New York City, Dallas has almost everything that New York has but it's more spread out, it's not compact. And I like that. I like the suburbs.
Where did you settle in to Dallas? I live up in Carrollton. I like the area. I lived in New York City for a long time, but I also lived outside of it for a long time. So I'm used to neighborhoods. Plus, Carrollton is convenient. I live right by the H-Mart supermarket, so I can buy all my groceries out there.
I read in an interview you gave that you don't eat Thai food in America. Usually not. If you ask a lot of Thai people, they usually don't go out for Thai food, just because we cook at home. But also most of the Thai restaurants tend to move away from the really traditional cuisine.
I grew up in a Thai restaurant family in New York and even in our restaurants we wouldn't eat there, just because it's different. It's Western. Which is what I started to ask, why do we have to do it different? Why don't we make it for guests the way we would make it for ourselves? So when we decided to do Pakpao, I decided that if I was going to do another Thai restaurant I wanted to do it the way you would in Thailand. So it tastes like the stuff you would get in Bangkok, which is why I think we have a lot of the Thai community supporting us. We're staying true to the originality.
What is about the authentic Thai food that's different? Well, let's break it down first to Eastern vs. Western cuisine. Western is Italian or French, European. The main significant difference is the Asian cuisine in general, we use a method that is all about flavor. Western is more about seasoning. You know the difference?
No. Seasoning is bringing out the flavor that is already there. In Western food, you know what the number one seasoning used is?
Salt. Yep. So when you season chicken, what's the chicken supposed to taste like?
Um, chicken. Supposed to taste like chicken, so you use salt. When you season it properly, it tastes more like chicken, you extract the flavor that already existed. Southeastern Asian cuisine is all about flavoring. Flavoring is about introducing new tastes into the dish that don't already exist. That's why Asian cuisine uses soy sauce instead of salt, because soy sauce has a new flavor. We use oyster sauce, sesame oil, it's all about flavoring the dish. That's the main significant difference.
Break it down even deeper and the difference in Thai cuisine there are usually two flavors in the same dish. If you look at tastebuds, you have salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami. Those are the five tastebuds. Thai cuisine usually combines these, like a salty, spicy sweet combination or a bitter, sour, umami combination. Always a multiple flavor experience. That's the difference.
What is your favorite dish you make here? Probably the Ground Pork with Holy Basil. That's my go-to comfort food. Maybe you had growing up, pizza or a hamburger. I had this dish.
If you were going to cook at home, what do you make? I don't cook at home, period. My wife cooks at home. Home cooking and cooking in a restaurant is very different, different equipment.
What's the one utensil in the kitchen here that if it were missing you couldn't cook? Probably spoon. Because you use it for everything. You use spoon to ladle your sauces, you use to raise a fish, to stir.
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Do you have a cooking philosophy? My philosophy is that it's gotta look good, smell good, and taste good.
That should be everyone's. It has to be three out of three, it has to be in that order. When you get the food, you see it first, then you smell it and then you say, "wow" when you taste it.
People loved Pakpao. Dallas will miss you. I'm not really going anywhere. Sooner or later I'm going to be in Dallas, it's just a question of when. I love Dallas and I will miss it. Fort worth to Dallas is just a short drive. If the opportunity comes by in Dallas, I'm sure I'll be in Dallas sometime soon.