Hong Thaimee - Chef/Owner of Thaimee LOVE
Originally from Chiang Mai, Thailand, Hong Thaimee is a chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has served as a global ambassador for Thai cuisine and culture for nearly a decade. After successful careers as both a model and business executive in Bangkok, Hong felt drawn to pursue a more personally meaningful path. “I was working as the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Merck Pharmaceuticals Thailand. From the outside, it was a dream job, but I didn’t feel fulfilled,” recounts Hong. “While volunteering for the 2004 tsunami relief efforts, I realized I wanted to create a company with the purpose of spreading love and serving people. Cooking with my family was always a central part of my life, and I thought, ‘This is how I can give back.’”
Armed with drive, a Master’s Degree in business, but little professional kitchen experience, Hong set off for New York City with the goal of sharing her love for Thai food with the world. She used her tenacity to secure cooking jobs at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s acclaimed Spice Market and Perry Street restaurants, where she spent several years mastering classic technique.
In 2012, Hong left Jean-Georges to open Ngam in the East Village. At Ngam, Hong showcased the flavors of her childhood—vibrant curries, spice blends, and herbs—in novel dishes created for a New York audience. Chef Hong’s distinct “modern Thai comfort food” quickly caught on; the restaurant was named Best Thai Food in NYC by The Village Voice in 2013; The New York Times declared Ngam serves, “…mighty Thai flavors that seize you by the throat”; and The New Yorker raved, “So much love in the air it’s hard to resist, and…it’s made its way into the food.” Hong went on to open Thaimee Box and Thaimee Magic, fast-casual concepts serving her signature style of Thai cooking. In 2015, she published her first cookbook “True Thai” (Rizzoli), displaying her vivacious personality, skill, and passion for the unique flavors of her homeland.
Now one of the most visible faces of Thai food in the US, Hong has been invited to cook at some of the most prestigious venues around the world such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the James Beard House, The St. Regis Maldives, The Hoxton Paris, Sofitel Bangkok, and many more. She has appeared on TV in the US and across Southeast Asia, including on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” in a major TV campaign for Air Asia, and as a judge on a prominent Thai cooking series.
In the Fall of 2020, Hong debuted her latest venture, Thaimee Love, which includes a pop-up restaurant in New York’s West Village, and a line of Thai products and meal kits. The pop-up utilizes Thai herbs and chilis grown especially for Hong through her collaboration with Heermance Farm in the Hudson Valley. “Thaimee Love is the culmination of my experiences over the past decade,” says Hong. “Like many, I’ve faced setbacks in my personal and professional life, which were magnified when the global pandemic hit. Turning to my passion—cooking food and serving people—I hope to bring joy, and inspire others to keep moving forward.”
In addition to spreading her love and knowledge of Thai cuisine, giving back is central to Hong’s mission and philosophy. She currently serves on City Harvest’s Food Council, is a Global Chef Ambassador for the AIDS charity (RED), and Thaimee LOVE will donate a portion of proceeds to ROAR, an organization raising funds for hospitality professionals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hong lives in Midtown Manhattan’s with her partner, Conor. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing ballet, tennis, and reading about gardening, architecture, and design, with the hopes of one day owning her own farm.