Andy Ricker's already made a big splash with his first Pok Pok Phat Thai concept opening in Chinatown, though has a much larger operation in tow a few blocks away that'll boast his full complement of Thai cuisine when it opens in a few months. The AP sat down with Ricker to talk about his move back to Los Angeles, whereupon the chef finds much to like about the city of Angels after nearly 30 years. Here are five things to take away from the chat.
1. Ricker's really into the weather. When asked why he chose Southern California to plant his next flag, Ricker said that the cold weather in New York City was "just really awful." Also the products that he wanted to get are easier to find here. Plus one for LAX-C, that massive Thai Costco down near Chinatown.
2. The chef thinks he's going to add something different to LA's already saturated Thai scene. "We've kept it paired down and really try to concentrate on the things we can do well. We displease some people." So Pok Pok's going to have a tighter menu than people are used to. More: "They're used to a dish at a local Thai place and we don't have it so either they're upset or maybe they're not interested in eating what we have on a menu. This is a calculated risk that we take."
3. Chiang Mai and Burma are going to direct a lot of the flavors. Northern Thai cooking will be the prime influencer in Ricker's food here in LA. In addition to Chiang Mai, think Mae Hong Son, which is closer to Burma, which will throw on some very aromatic, super-spicy dishes like khua haem. Said dish is chopped up chicken wings with chicken offal. Someone needs to tell Buffalo Wild Wings that they're going to have a new competitor in town.
4. Americans are getting more comfortable with ethnic flavors. Ricker says because kids are growing up with Korean BBQ, Vietnamese food, and other Asian dishes, super-authentic Thai dishes are going to be something that young folks seek out. So basically, Ricker thinks old people may not adjust their taste buds but their adventurous kids will because they've been exposed to different ethnic tastes from a younger age.
5. Ricker loves Ktown and SGV because, well, they're awesome. Says the chef: "When I was here Koreatown was a relatively small place. And now it's massive. And there's so much amazing, interesting food there. I'm kind of blown away." He also thinks SGV is a fantastic food scene, something that is plain to most Angelenos by this point.