Tell us about yourself and what you do?
Born in China of Chinese Russian background, I have lived in Australia for nearly 30 years. Most times I feel that I was born and raised in this great country that I proudly call home. I have been working in the IT/Telecommunications industry since I left university. Currently I have 2 full time jobs, my “day” job is as a life cycle account executive for a large Telco looking after Asia Pacific region, my “night” job is running a new and exciting Thai restaurant in Tempe, Sydney – Bai Tong Thai.
What inspire you to open Bai Tong Thai Restaurant?
Cooking has always been my passion. I love that there is no limit to your capability and imagination when it comes to cooking. We are so lucky in Australia that we are surrounded by wonderful fresh ingredients and diversity of cuisines, yet we are often subjected to substandard restaurant food. I wanted to create a place where we can serve dishes created with best quality of ingredients in an informal environment. We chose Thai cuisine as it is a shining example of how best to balance fresh ingredients with five of our fundamental tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and spicy.
What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?
Now that’s a leading question….
Loyal, Detailed, Decisive, Talented, Stubborn and my partner would add “Bossy”.
Who (or what) inspires you to do what you love as a cook and a restaurant owner?
My partner Ash is my inspiration. He has always been brutally honest with everything in our life. If he had it his way, we’d be having dinner parties every weekend and I would be cooking up a storm.
We’d seen a lack of creative and quality food surrounding where we live, and often talk about how good it would be if we could bridge this gap. In 2011, we took the plunge and opened Bai Tong Thai at Tempe.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you design the menu?
Our menus are designed based on what’s fresh in season as well as our Chef’s signature dishes. We carry all the standard Thai dishes that you find in all Thai restaurants around Australia such as Pad Thai, Fried Rice, Green/Red Curry; however, we also have an award winning chef who has some amazing dishes as her signature cuisine. A shining example of our philosophy can be found in our current seasonal specials menu – Our chef’s own ChiangMai style pork sausages for entree and Wintermelon stuffed with Prawns served with a Choo Chee sauce for main.
What are the signature dishes in your restaurant?
On our menu, we have many dishes that you would be hard to find in another restaurant in Sydney, some of our customer’s favourites are:
Lemongrass whole fish – Whole Barramundi filleted boneless, then crispy fried and served with lemonsgrass floss and chilli dressing.
Banana Blossom Salad with Prawns – Tender banana flower with grilled king prawns
Miang Pla Grob – crispy fish with cashewnut and coconut served on a fresh betal leaf
What motivates you to do your best as the Restaurant owner?
To see and hear happy and satisfied customers after their meal as well as the wonderful creations coming out of the kitchen. We are so lucky that we have a very talented award winning chef that creates new and exciting dishes regularly.
What are key tasks for Restaurant owner?
As a small establishment, I have to be very hands on. Like most small businesses, it’s a 24×7 job keeping the business afloat. Examples of key tasks are below:
Sourcing – constantly looking for ingredients, suppliers, negotiating on price, organising orders and pickup. To ensure the best quality of ingredients, I would be out shopping daily on perishable items and once or twice weekly to various markets to source ingredients.
Menu Design and delivery – Menu is key to success for a restaurant, I need to ensure that it’s up to date, printed and delivered to client’s mail boxes. Our seasonal menu changes every 6 weeks, and can take upto 2 weeks to source and decide on what’s best in season.
Staffing – As a small business, every staff is important to the success of the place. Everyone also have to learn multi tasking and multi skills. I need to do staff roaster, staff training, payroll, hiring and all HR related activities.
Paperwork – mountains of! There is no end to paperwork, daily banking, accounts payables, book keeping.
Customer Service – I am the face of the restaurant, I need to ensure that our customers are all well taken care of. Recognise regular clients and ensuring that any of their special needs are catered for.
Marketing /Advertising – This is an ongoing task, in today’s online world, I need to try and ensure that we have a good marketing/advertising plan with limited resources.
Shopping – doesn’t matter how well planned we are, there is always something that’s needed at the 11th hour.
Helping hand -Whichever station that needs help I would be there, cooking, serving, washing dishes, cleaning.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’d love to combine my passion for travel and cooking. I’d love to have a place where there will be no menus and we would source whatever is fresh in the market for the day and create an amazing meal for people to share.
What do you most love about your job?
Happy and satisfied customers, a discovery of a new dish that can be add to our menu.
If you had just one wish, what would it be?
Hmm.. more hours in the day!
Seriously, I wish Australia government really have a good look at how best to support small businesses. We are drowning under the weights of paperwork, taxes and fees. If we had money to hire all the extra hands, we wouldn’t be a small business!
How do you connect with other artisans, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?
In today’s internet world, I connect with a lot of people via Linkedin, facebook etc, however I still believe in a good old fashioned face to face catch up to share ideas. Although right now there’s not a lot of time for that.
Best cooking tip for a novice just getting into the business?
What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?
Do you have a favourite cookbook to recommend?
Where do we find you and your restaurant?