Transforming your business from an ultra-popular street food stand to a permanent restaurant during a global pandemic is certainly different.
But, for the mastermind behind Brother Thai, Andrew Chongsathien, being different is something he’s proud of all his life.
From his childhood in Bridgend in the 1980s, where Thai families were scarce, to adapting his love for traditional Thai food to something completely new on the UK street food scene, Andrew has long been determined to create something different.
Read more:How a Welsh burger restaurant in the middle of nowhere attracted customers from across the UK
The modestly sized Brother Thai Roti Bar in Cardiff, located on Whitchurch Road, is the culmination of six years of hard work, touring the UK street food circuit and then making the decision that it it was time to move on to a brick and mortar. -style operation.
The Roti Bar may be a new venture, but the award-winning Brother Thai has its strengths when it comes to tackling hard work in order to get the right product – which means it’s enough. difficult to reserve a table.
Drawing inspiration from his travels to create their stuffed rotis, Andrew saw that a favorite dish he cooked at home, sticky beef, combined with a South Thai-style roti, which they used there for keeping their curries, could be a winner in Britain.
“It was just a moment of inspiration,” he said.
“I have always looked at different recipes, chefs and cooks to see what they are doing in Thailand. I have seen that in the south of Thailand, where there is a large Muslim population, they use parathas to serve their food. curries and I just thought that would be a really good vehicle to hold something in. And, people love the meat in the bread here, everything is a version of that, mushy, sandwich, burger – so I started to think to that idea. I put sticky beef in it and ate it and thought it was a winner. “
His mother, Khantika, who single-handedly raised Andrew and his brother in Bridgend, is proud and appreciates her son’s creations, as are her Thai family, who have visited her in the past and tasted her rotis.
The popularity of dishes like sticky beef roti, jackfruit roti, their delicious version of fried chicken, served at events in Bristol, Abergavenny, Cardiff, etc., meant Andrew’s days off were turning into administrative days. Every day was a day of preparation, it seemed, and dragging food deliveries to their top-floor apartment, ahead of the events, meant it was time for a change.
It was time to look for a more permanent place to serve their amazing street food to old and new customers.
Andrew, 40, spoke about what the change means for him and the Brother Thai family.
“Street food is very unique, that’s what it is, people walk around, choose what they want to eat. We do this and if people don’t want that, that’s fine,” said he declared.
“A restaurant is different because you reach a much wider range of people. We get customers who have never had Brother Thai before, and we’re a different type of Thai restaurant, that’s our take on Thai food. – so we’re just dealing with different expectations.
“I mean, we have high chairs now! I never really had to think about it before. But, the people who have been Brother Thai customers since 2015 are likely to have children now. Also, how do you explain to people that “Have you never had Brother Thai before what it is and how do you best eat it?” He laughs.
Determining Brother Thai’s permanent space after six years on the road depends on the people around him.
And Andrew has a background in graphic design, which is why BT has always looked so good. He has also worked in restaurants like Pizza Express which gave the team an efficient system on the go.
“I think that’s half the people,” he said. “Working with the right people has been very important. And finding the right people to be part of the Brother Thai family too. It sounds like a cliché, but I think most of the companies, the strongest at least, see themselves as a family. And also finding out who the customers are, and that relationship has always evolved. And that’s probably the secret to our success. One of the reasons we’ve managed to be there for six years. “
Andrew finds success open to personal interpretation, explaining that Brother Thai’s success could be marked by an appearance at street food events in Abergavenny, Sheffield and Bristol. But on the other hand, opening the restaurant, which he put everything in, could be another person’s vision of success.
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Andrew, who after studying graphic design in college and advertising in college, was heading for a career in advertising before stopping that trip when he realized it wasn’t for him.
Instead, he traveled the world working for charities and rode a street food van in the early 2010s.
“It’s fascinating,” said Andrew.
“I find it really interesting. All I do is try to do it until the end of the week, with no problem. Like, the ice machines are on or are cleaning the blue bins. Nobody is. sees it.”
But aside from the boring day-to-day chores that come with running a restaurant, Andrew’s passion and the fun and friendly customer service clearly instilled in his staff is evident and he wouldn’t have done it any other way.
After all, quality cuisine and street food are in his blood. He cites his mother’s amazing Christmas dinners as he grew up as a point of contact in his foodie memories and his grandfather in Bangkok actually owned factories that made street food carts.
Andrew’s Thai family is originally from China and fled south to escape Chairman Mao’s rule in the 1950s and 1960s. His grandparents remained in Thailand, but Khantika moved to the UK and left brought with her her traditional culinary skills.
It’s a mix of all the heritage, the experiences of working and traveling and doing something different that forms the identity of Brother Thai – and the end product, the food, the laid back atmosphere and the easy togetherness, that’s why people like to come back.
“I’m just Andrew from Bridgend with a Thai family and a Chinese family, and it’s just a trip – it sounds cliché – to find out who I am,” he said.
“Growing up where I did, with a single mother raising two sons, in a predominantly white city, how I view my identity is always a question I had early on, perhaps more so than others.
“Brother Thai wasn’t exactly the direct result of this, it could have been an unconscious thing, but food has always been a conscious journey that I used to look at in my heritage in some way. guess it always made sense to do thai food maybe easier to discover and search and find a connection or relationship.
“This cliché of ‘passion’ clearly comes from something that has sincerity, integrity, and that is fundamentally my family.”
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