Pitaya Phanphensophon is a passionate man with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that invites one in return. That passion, united with an unwavering belief that work should also be fun and an irrepressible joie de vivre is what sets the Mango Tree brand apart and on a course for global success.
"If you cook from passion and with love, it comes through in the food," Pitaya explains. "I sincerely believe that." That passion is also what has made him one of Thailand's foremost culinary entrepreneurs and cultural ambassadors, presiding over a restaurant group that began in a humble shophouse 58 years ago when his father opened Thailand's first suki restaurant, and now spans 60 locations in 13 countries around the world, with new restaurants in China.
For Pitaya, however, it's not about how many locations he has but that very single restaurant bearing the Mango Tree or COCA brands must deliver on its promise to its customers. "Being born into the restaurant business, it's in my blood. I wish to see our brands and restaurants around 500 years from now." With a smile, he adds: "That's called taking the long view."
Since his father's passing and Pitaya taking the reins of the business, he has grown the brands in Thailand and internationally, with flagship restaurants in top international cities including Bangkok, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong.
Pitaya loves rolling his sleeves up, either in the kitchen, as a very hand-on CEO hosting a monthly television cooking show, teaching cooking classes in his R&D kitchen, and or regularly holding his own dinner parties where he cooks for his family and friends.
"My love affair with Thai food started in earnest when I was in boarding school abroad. Myself, and my fellow Asian students misses rice from Thailand. So it all started with a small rice cooker, soya sauce and sweet Chinese sausage. Later I added mushrooms and chicken before moving on to more elaborate recipes."
He has his own cookbook: "I Am Not a Chef, But I Sure Am a Good Cook", in which he elaborates on Cooks who love what they do make the best food. That's why I empower our cooks in our restaurants to nourish their passion for what they are doing, and to let the love shine through in their work.