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Interview With Owner and Chef at Thai That, Kiwi Wongpeng

Interview+With+Owner+and+Chef+at+Thai+That%2C+Kiwi+Wongpeng
https://golakewood.com/thai-thai/

Being someone of mixed race, I have experienced many different things in my life. One thing that I’m very grateful to have experienced and been a part of is the different types of foods I get to eat. Being mixed with Puerto Rican has opened up my mind and my palette to all different kinds of flavors. I find it extremely necessary to expand your palate and get a taste of different cultures and lifestyles.

In expanding my palate, one of my favorite styles of food is Asian, whether it’s Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, etc. For the Lakewood Business series, I wanted to focus on one region of Asia; Bangkok, Thailand. In Lakewood, we’re no strangers to types of food from other places. Thankfully, one of my favorite restaurants, Thai Thai, is so close to home and really brings Thailand to Lakewood.

I interviewed Kiwi Wongpeng, a proud Lakewood resident, and the owner and one of the chefs at Thai Thai to get some background information on her, her inspiration, and the importance of expanding your taste.

 

Have you had any prior jobs?

Long ago, I worked for Johanson Technology in the microchip inspection unit.

What is your favorite dish from anywhere?

My favorite food from anywhere would be Tamale.

Of all the places you could open a restaurant, why Lakewood?

I grew up in Lakewood and have many memories here. I love that Lakewood has a large cultural diversity and that people are friendly. I am proud to share foods from my culture and I always believe that food is an important part of the culture.

How old were you when you realized you wanted to open a restaurant?

My family has been in the restaurant business since I was young. I grew up playing under the register counter and running around in the parking lot. I was helping my family at work growing up and I didn’t take it seriously until I was 29 years old. I came up with a new idea and wanted to open Thai Thai, introducing Bangkok Street Food.

Who or what was your inspiration to open a restaurant?

My mother inspired me to open Thai Thai. She makes delicious, spicy, and flavorful food for me at home. I thought that people would love this authentic spicy Thai food too.

Did you have any other areas in mind before you chose Lakewood?

Lakewood was my first choice.

Where did you get your support from?

I get my support from family, friends, and Thai Thai’s customers.

Do you find expanding your taste into different cultures and horizons important?

Yes, as a chef I believe that sharing food is a way of preserving culture, this is a symbol of pride. Food contributes to an individual’s physical and mental well-being and expresses one’s cultural identity through preparation, sharing, and consumption. From one dish you can learn so much about ethnicity, background, culture, history, ancestors, etc…

What obstacles have you had to overcome, and how did you do it?

There were so many obstacles I had but, I’ll give you a little advice. During a tough time, we all seem to have self-doubt, fear, lack of confidence or even blame ourselves, but try to stay positive.

What did you do to stay positive during the pandemic?

I got to do so many things during the pandemic, I spent a lot of time in nature, I cooked at home, and I learned how to sew masks. I reached out to family, friends, and customers through social media. I also decided to go to college during the pandemic.

Can you speak about the importance of having women in the food industry?

For the past 5 years, more women are entering the food industry than ever before and that’s a good sign. It’s good to see women leading change and showing their knowledge, skills, and creativity. Having women in the food industry creates gender equality and opportunities for more women to improve their skills in the food industry.

 

A big thank you to Kiwi Wongpeng and Thai Thai for agreeing to do this interview. If you haven’t eaten there, I heavily encourage you to try it because it is truly life-changing and delicious.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Mariani, Student Reporter
Class of 2023!

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