Bank Foods caught up with founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafe Saiphin Moore. She spills the bean on authenticity, passion and success. Here is the conversation we had when we sipped cappuccino.
Hello who are you? – Hello Bank Foods! I’m Saiphin Moore, co-founder and food development chef at Rosa’s Thai Cafe
What’s your favourite dish (any country)? – Definitely papaya salad from Isaan (north-eastern region of Thailand). I can’t live without it.
What is your concept and how did you come up with it? – When my husband and I moved to London in 2006, we were very disappointed with the kind of Thai food available in the UK. It’s not a true representation of the street cafes you find in Bangkok. That’s where the idea came from, to offer delicious and modern Thai food through an authentic / casual experience without the waterfalls, elephants and coconut trees!
What were you doing before Rosa’s and how did you get into this business? – I have always been a chef, running my own food business since I was a teenager living in Petchabun Thailand. When we moved to London, I was serving Thai food at a market stall in Brick Lane, while running a catering business out of my own kitchen.
What were the difficulties at the start of Rosa’s – We always wanted to expand, so we had to get the first restaurant right. I would be cooking in the kitchen, while Alex would be helping out with the dishes, or cycling to Chinatown to pick up ingredients. Going from one to two restaurants, we had to sell our house in Hong Kong to fund the second site in Soho.
What are your responsibilities as a restaurant owner? – I oversee all the food being served at Rosa’s; from ingredients sourcing/quality to recipes and presentation. I’m very hands-on, so you can often find me working in the kitchen!
What are the challenges of being a restaurant owner? – We have to keep looking at the big picture and where we want to go in the next few years. I never stop thinking about that, which can be quite exhausting since sometimes, I just want to get stuck in, cook, and not think about anything else.
What were the difficulties in introducing southeastern cuisine to a western market? – When we opened Rosa’s, the concept of modern Thai cuisine and Thai food, in general, was quite foreign to the UK customers. So in a way, we were at the head of the trend. It was mostly us educating our customers what is Thai food, and how to eat it. Now a lot of people are familiar with Thai food and/or have been to Thailand, which helps a great deal!
What do you enjoy most about your job? – Being in the kitchen, and talking to my customers. Seeing them enjoy my food is the best part of my job!
What do you look for in a manager? – Someone who is passionate about Thai culture/food and has a great customer service.
What’s your secret in attracting customers? – Our food is delicious! We use fresh ingredients of high quality, and cook each dish to order. Customers keep coming back because they know we’re reliable.
People generally open one restaurant, how should they make that leap to open another one? – It’s all in the planning. We created a very clear growth plan before we went for any funding. We also did extensive research about the potential locations.
What key lessons have you learnt about running a restaurant? – There will always be surprises along the way…but we’ve learned to deal with them quickly and efficiently. And we can’t do that without a strong team and great relationships with our friends in the business.
We love your Rosa’s Thai Cafe Cookbook, how did you find the process?- It was extremely enjoyable! The creative team at Octopus Publishing was really supportive. I flew to the US for the photoshoot; I cooked 100 recipes in the course of a few days.
What do you attribute to your success? – I approach everything 110%. I’m also really passionate about cooking great food.
How do you balance work/leisure? – I also cook in my time off, so I guess when I’m in the Rosa’s kitchen, that’s my leisure time as well!
Best way to destress from the kitchen? – I love to travel with my family. That’s when I destress and find new inspirations.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a restaurant? – Work hard and put your heart and soul into it. There’s no easy and glamorous way. You need to know everything about your restaurant.
What are your thoughts on the new wave of healthy food trends? – I think it’s great! We have way too many junk food in London. My new project is all about health. More on that later.
If Thai food could fuse with a different cuisine, which would you choose? – It will definitely be Laotian cuisine. The two complement each other so well. There’s a lot of cross-over, especially around the border of Thai-Laos.
Next project? – This brings me to my next project, Lao Cafe! It draws on my family heritage, recipes, and cooking methods. Most dishes are made with loads of fresh herbs and spices, unique and indigenous ingredients, cooked over charcoal, giving it a distinct taste you can’t find anywhere else. I’m really excited about it!