Hot Chef: Hong Thaimee comes from Thailand, with love

Former model Hong Thaimee mans the kitchen at Ngam (99 Third Ave., 212-777-8424).

Hong Thaimee was living a dream life in Thailand, hosting a TV show and modeling for brands like Pantene and Nescafe. But after some serious soul-searching, she realized her passions centered on food, so she came to America to start anew. In September, she opened her first restaurant, Ngam (which is her Thai name), serving Thai comfort food with a modern twist — and she hasn’t looked back.

Tell us about your decision to come to New York City.

I was a career woman in Bangkok, and then late in 2004, the tsunami hit. I was always curious about what life is — like, why are people born and get hurt and die? I wanted to learn more in depth, so I searched and searched and my experience took me to the point where life is too short. I looked back at my life — what do I do well, what do I love to do and what can I do for others? I came up with the idea of, OK, I love to cook, I love to entertain, and maybe if I could do a business that I can set up for other people — the money that we generate we could donate. Or the culture of the company, if we could do it to make people feel good about their life, and serve them from within, that’d be cool. So basically I collected all my money and quit my job. I knew of someone in New York and contacted her.

What’s your favorite thing to cook on the menu?

Everything. Not that I’m trying to be political, but it’s so dear to my heart, this menu. I would love to link people to my culture. Thai food is more than peanuts, more than spicy. It’s a combination of sweet, sour, salty, crunchy — everything at once. When I got a chance to do this restaurant I  looked at local ingredients and matched [them] up with my childhood flavors that I love. It’s like a flavor of my childhood put on the menu. The burger, it’s from my hometown. There’s  a pork sausage that we marinate in herbs — when I bite it, that’s my childhood snack.

What’s the hardest part about owning your own restaurant?

I feel like I’m standing naked and people can judge me from every direction. We understand that I’m not perfect, no one is, but we want to be better every day. I feel blessed that I’m here, and for people to come in and basically eat my vision.

How do you find new ways to cook Thai food while maintaining the traditional elements guests expect?

   
I do not do it in the way that is too foreign to them. I do it in the way that people would understand. For example, the Massaman potpie that I do, all I did was just change from the regular potato to the sweet potato that we all love here. I mean, who doesn’t like potpie here? It’s homey.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

In third year, Occupy Wall Street a "leaner,…

Three years after thousands took to the streets and camped out in lower Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street members were out in Zuccotti Park on Wednesday…

National

New Apple devices include default kill switch

By Marina LopesWASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Apple Inc phones include a theft deterrent system that enables users to lock their devices and wipe them clean…

National

PHOTO: Photographer comes face-to-face with deadly crocodile

A deadly crocodile comes face-to-face with a courageous photographer, who manages to take a set of jaw-dropping pictures of the teeth-baring reptile.

Local

Brooklyn packed for annual West Indian Day Parade

Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway was packed Monday with an estimated one million people showing up on Labor Day to celebrate West Indian culture.

Movies

Review: Kevin Smith's 'Tusk' is insane even for…

Kevin Smith returns to the horror genre, only with more jokes this time, with "Tusk," in which Michael Parks wants to turn Justin Long into a walrus.

Movies

Fall Arts Guide: NYC's repertory film scene boasts…

Among the best repertory film series in NYC this fall include old subway movies at BAM, Capra at Film Forum and actual celluloid at the IFC Center.

Music

Needtobreathe's revival: From broken up to resurrected

Needtobreathe talks about breaking up and reuniting while recording their latest album, "Rivers in the Wastelands."

The Word

The Word: John Travolta stands by 'Battlefield Earth'

John Travolta doesn't seem too bothered about the pending lawsuit from his former pilot, Doug Gotterba, who claims he also had a six-year romantic relationship…

NFL

Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday. Decker left Sunday's…

NFL

Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL

Fantasy football: Run with Knile Davis, Khiry Robinson,…

Fantasy football: Run with Knile Davis, Khiry Robinson, Donald Brown

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…

Career

Here's why the newly-crowned Miss America deleted her…

Miss America pageant winner Kira Kazantsev quietly deleted her LinkedIn profile this week after her work history came under attack by conservative critics. Many of the…

Career

Zosia Mamet explains why leaning in is not…

Zosia Mamet is living proof that even if you don't think you can get a job you're going for, you should still try. Along with…