Chef Nuit of the crowd-pleasing Pai Northern Thai Kitchen is an ambassador for Thai Select - the Michelin-like organization that certifies only the most authentic Thai restaurants around the world based on food quality, cultural preservation, and giving back to the community. Pai, and other Thai Select restaurants will be taking over Yonge Dundas Square today for Destination Thailand. The Destination Thailand festival will bring together the best of Thailand, food, dance, sport and craftspeople for you to explore with your custom Destination Thailand passport.
I was really impressed with Thai Select's committment to community and their recognition that a truly good restaurant is also a good corporate citizen. Chef Nuit is an inspiring woman, who opened her restaurant shortly after immigrating to Toronto. I had a chance to sit down with her about Thai Select and the importance of giving back.
I think it's easy to understand the Thai Select designation when it comes to choosing restaurants that serve great food. How are restaurants judged by Thai Select when it comes to giving back to the community?
Thai select restaurants support every aspect of Thai culture. Alot of the work of these restaurants is about supporting community initiatives. Thai Select restaurants may offer lessons for the Thai community in traditional fruit carving and thai dancing. Other restaurants focus on supporting community initiatives by fundraising, Recently there was a fundrasining initiative to fund students that started a Thai radio station.
How has Pai, the town, influenced the food we eat at your restaurant Pai?
I was born near Pai and moved there to work as a nurse. Pai is a very small town that is very culturally diverse. There are people there that are thai, burmese, as well as 7 hill tribes and some foreigners. The food in the markets pull influences from china and myanmar which is very uniqe especially for such a small town. All of the ingredients are locally grown - we grow our own rice, vegetables and raise our own meat. When I lived there I used to go to the markets in the evening and noticed how people used food to communicate their culture and identity. When we had the opportunity to open a restaurant here I knew Pai was the perfect name as my goal was to transfer my food experience to Toronto.
Toronto is a city of immigrants. What advice do you have to newcomers to this city who want to open their own restaurants?
You must be authentic. Use the food you know as a vehicle to grow your business. Torontonians are hungry for authenticity.