Looking back, Patrick Chen would have been considered a pioneer in 1980. Although Richmond was home to only one Chinese restaurant – the Bamboo Grove, which opened in 1963 – Chen offered something that was not in Richmond at the ‘era.
Looking back, Patrick Chen would have been considered a pioneer in 1980.
Although Richmond is home to a Chinese restaurant, the Bamboo Grove, which opened in 1963, Chen came up with something that wasn’t in Richmond at the time.
According to his son, Desmond Chen, his father introduced live seafood and authentic Chinese cuisine when he opened the doors to the Unicorn on No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway.
“My father was an entrepreneur at heart and a trailblazer, who was always on the lookout for the next and new idea,” said his son, Chen, who now runs the Thai House Restaurant Group. “Back then, Chinese restaurants catered to the Caucasian palate, so the food was westernized, but dad decided to stick with Chinese food and serve it as authentically as possible.
“He loved providing new and unique experiences to his customers.”
The Unicorn was a Richmond prop for five years before Chen’s father sold it.
“The new owner changed the name,” said Chen, who attended Richmond Elementary School before the family moved to Vancouver.
In another daring move, Patrick Chen, 65, introduced many Vancouverites to Thai cuisine.
“In 1985 my father discovered Thai cuisine while in Thailand and fell in love with cooking,” said the 37-year-old. “With Expo 1986 just around the corner, Dad decided to open his first Thai House restaurant on Robson Street.”
Today, the Thai House Restaurant Group celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The company has grown to include nine restaurants and more than 200 employees in the Lower Mainland.
Recently, the restaurant group unveiled their newest addition to the family – the Pink Elephant Thai in downtown Vancouver.
The Richmond Thai House opened in 1989, the third of five.
Patrick Chen’s road to success began when he immigrated with his family to Canada from Hong Kong in the late sixties. He studied food and drink at BCIT.
“While dad was at BCIT, he worked part-time in the restaurant at the Pacific Palisades hotel,” Chen said. “Although no one in her family worked in the food industry, it was her dream to someday own her own restaurant.”
Chen literally grew up in the business. He joined the family restaurant chain as a teenager.
“When I was 13, I was a kitchen assistant, which meant I was doing the dishes,” he joked, adding that he left full-time in 1987. “My dad made me learn them. tricks of the trade from scratch … He never showed favoritism, he wanted me to learn the value of money. ”
Chen, along with his father and their executive chef Lek Tendonioe, who has been at the helm since 1986, travel to Thailand for an annual culinary pilgrimage. If they’re successful, the trio return with new recipes, new cooking techniques, and hopefully a new chef or two.
“If we discover a new dish, we try it on our staff before it’s even on the menu,” Chen said. “At the Thai House we have over 100 dishes on the menu.
The Thai House Group has expanded to purchase authentic Thai sauces, and there are plans to add ready-to-eat dishes over the next six months.
“We want to build a centralized kitchen so that we can provide fresh, ready-to-eat meals in our restaurants,” Chen added.
We also talk about franchising.
“However, we don’t want to rush the expansion,” Chen added.