Five Minutes With Restaurant Lifer Desmond Chen, President Of “Thai House Ventures”
Desmond Chen pretty much defines what it means to be a restaurant lifer. The proprietor and president of Thai House Ventures has been in the trade since he was a kid, working his way up the ranks to where he is now, operating Charm Modern Thai, Chilli House Thai Bistro, Urban Thai Bistro, and Alberni’s new Pink Elephant Thai.
Desmond’s story begins with that of his father, Patrick Chen, who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1967. He studied at BCIT and worked front of house at the Pacific Palisades Hotel through the 1970′s before opening a string of Chinese restaurants, among them Richmond’s first, the Unicorn. His love affair with Thai food eventually led to five other restaurants, the first of them being Thai House on Robson (1986).
His son (Desmond is an only child) officially started in the family business as a dishwasher in Grade 8. As his father’s empire expanded, he did everything from driving deliveries and preparing sauces to waiting tables and wrestling with accounts.
The rest, as they say, is history…
First memory? Ordering Lobster for delivery from my father’s Chinese restaurant in Richmond when I was 8 years old.
The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Instant Ramen noodles.
Local bartender who could sell you anything? Shaun Layton [L'Abattoir].
Have you beat an addiction? Yes, smoking.
Scariest situation you’ve ever been in? At the age of 12 being hit by a Van running a red light while I was riding my bike crossing the street.
Unluckiest moment in your life? Being hit by a van.
What are you proud of? My family.
What makes you angry? Dishonest people.
Three things about your Kerrisdale that make you want to live there? I love it because it’s so convenient: five minutes away from my office, close to my restaurants and within walking distance to a good variety of stores and restaurants.
Drink you’ll never have again? Chartreuse! 1 ounce feels like you’ve drank 10 ounces of 151!
Fashion turn-off in women? Crocs with jeans.
Favourite Vancouver bridge? Burrard Street Bridge.
Best Vancouver patio? Chilli House Thai Bistro on Beach Avenue. Is there any other?
Three things you’d like to change about Vancouver? Restaurant Liquor Laws, downtown bike lanes and property taxes.
Cheap place for dinner? Pho Tan.
Book you’re reading? The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.
Last place traveled? San Francisco.
What terrifies you? Heights.
The cliche you overuse? LOL.
If you could rename yourself? Noah.
Shoe of choice? Slip on driver shoes.
Your ancestry? Chinese.
Best bar stool in the city? Pink Elephant Thai.
Dumbest purchase ever? The Power Plate.
Luckiest moment in your life? Birth of my children – all four of them.
The relatively normal piece of clothing that you’d look the most ridiculous in? Bikini thong.
Talent you wish you possessed? Acting.
Musical instrument you long to play? The Drums.
Sport you gave up? Soccer, at the age of 12.
The game you’re best at? Ice Hockey. Started playing as an adult and currently playing for three teams. It’s my stress reliever!
Have you ever fired a gun? No.
Favourite Canadian town we may not have heard of? Pierrefonds in Quebec.
First album that made you love music? Duran Duran’s “Rio”.
The one country that you have no interest in ever visiting? Algeria.
The first three things you do every morning? Check Blackberry for emails. Check Iphone for @tweet mentions. Shower.