Celebrity chef Jet Tila shares 3 ways to spot a good Thai restaurant

Jet Tila, Food Network star, restaurateur and cookbook author.Dave Kotinsky/Stringer/Getty Images

  • Jet Tila, a Food Network star and restaurateur, shared the things he looks for in a Thai restaurant.

  • He told Insider he pays attention to everything from what’s on the menu to how the tables are set.

  • The chef said chopsticks should only be part of the default table setting if it’s a noodle house.

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Jet Tila has spent his career and life around people performing various cuisines from all over Asia.

In an interview about his appearance at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival and his partnership with Pei Wei restaurants, Tila told Insider that as the eldest son of his immigrant parents, he basically grew up in his family’s food business. family. Tila’s family opened the first Thai grocery store in Los Angeles in 1972, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Tila said that since the age of 10 he had worked in markets, restaurants and on farms which were all part of the growing business. He said he was basically brought up in shops because his family could not afford any other form of child care. But it wasn’t necessarily where he wanted to be when he was a kid.

“I would say the romantic answer is, ‘It was amazing and full of adventure,'” Tila said of her upbringing. “But, to be honest, that was the last thing I wanted to do.”

While he wanted to play with friends, Tila said this unconventional training helped him develop a foundation for what has now become his own career.

“I believe in the 10,000 hour rule to become an expert,” he said. “I probably logged 20,000 hours at the age of 22.”

Since growing up in the business, studying at various cooking schools and traveling himself, the Food Network star has discovered that there are certain Thai restaurant references that he believes indicate whether the people behind the restaurant serve something delicious. .

Pay attention to the setting of the table

Tila said the first thing he pays attention to happens before the food even comes out – it’s how the table is set.

“If a Thai restaurant offers a spoon and fork, that would tell me they’re slightly more authentic because the proper way to eat Thai food, you know, with jasmine rice, is a fork and a spoon,” he said.

While the fork and spoon tell him that a restaurant is trying to channel a more traditional Thai dining style, the chopsticks do the opposite. “If they self-adjust with chopsticks and they’re not a noodle house, that usually tells me they’re bent more to an American-style restaurant,” he said.


Khao soi of Night + Market Song in Los Angeles, CA.The Washington Post/Contributor/Getty Images

Notice how they process the presence of spices

“I think the indicators are how sweet the food is,” Tila said, adding that really good metrics of a Thai restaurant would be its curry and whether a server or menu offers different levels of spice.

Tila said a good curry dish should be “good and thick” with a substantial amount of heat, and that’s a good sign if someone asks you how spicy you want a dish. “They usually say, ‘Our warm is Really hot,” he said while explaining what a spice demand could look like.

Less common, more regional dishes can indicate a good menu

If you study the menu and see dishes not commonly found in other Thai restaurants in America — he cited Khao soi and mango salad as examples — that could be a good sign, Tila said. , although this is not a guarantee.

“The problem,” he added, “anyone could put on a lesser-known dish but still execute it poorly.”

Likewise, he says, you might see something not traditionally Thai on the menu at all and think that means the food is bad. While this can certainly be a sign of a confused leader, it can also be a sign of a creative or well-versed leader.

“I know Thai restaurants in LA that do teriyaki, and they’re always phenomenal Thai restaurants,” he said.

Ultimately, it comes down to knowing and trusting your leader. “Pei Wei serves Korean, Thai and Chinese all at once,” Tila said of the restaurant chain he partners with. “But I have the credibility to get you there.”

Generally, even with all of his advice, the cookbook author recommends trying any restaurant at least twice before making a decision on it, unless you have a truly terrible experience. “And there’s no excuse, obviously, for bad service and bad food,” he added. But if you’re “on the fence” or unsure, he suggests coming back a second time.

Read the original Insider article