Meet The Chef: Saiphin Moore

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Saiphin Moore, founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafe, is dominating the Thai restaurant scene in London. Having grown up on a mountain farm in Khao Kho, northern Thailand, where she learned to cook with ingredients that were brought straight from field to wok, she moved to the UK and went on to launch Rosa’s Thai Cafe – bringing traditional Lao salads, curries and chargrilled dishes straight to London plates.

Now, with ten restaurants and a cookbook under her belt, we find out more about her inspirations, ambitious streak and upcoming projects…

What inspired you to become a chef?
I had always been helping my mum, aunties and uncles in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. It came naturally to me and I feel like it’s something I was born to do and there’s nothing else I could do better!

Tell us more about your culinary background…
I’m definitely a home-cook by heart; I learned everything from my parents. Growing up on a farm also taught me the importance of fresh produce. My first business, when I was 14, was a noodle shop in my village in Petchabun. Then when I was 18, working in Hong Kong as a nanny, I started cooking Chinese and Thai food for my employer three times a day. This quickly turned into a business as others within the same apartment complex started ordering food from me.

This paved way to a Thai grocery shop that also serves food to-go and, eventually, my first restaurant called TukTuk Thai was born. After my husband and I moved back to London, we started out serving food from the stalls in Brick Lane on the weekends, and supplementing our income with a catering business during the week, cooking food out of my kitchen.

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What is your favourite Thai dish? 
I cannot live without a super spicy Papaya Salad. I try to make this at least 3-4 times a week!

Do you have a favourite midnight snack?
I don’t often snack, but when I do it’s always instant noodles! Just because I’m a chef doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good midnight cup noodles.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?
When we opened our first Rosa’s Thai Cafe on Hanbury Street in 2008. Although the economy was not great, we still managed to open a restaurant and it was a real success!

If you weren’t a chef, which career would you like to pursue? 
I was a pretty good nanny, so I guess that would be my only other choice!

Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs? 
Work hard and be good to the people around you. Without those two qualities, you’d never be successful.

Describe your cooking style in three words.
Quick. Authentic. Fun.

What provides you with inspiration for new recipes? 
Traveling to different parts of the world. I was in Japan recently and was surprised by how many Thai dishes I can make using their local produce!

Do you have any role models? 
My parents. They had backbreaking jobs on our mountain farm but they never complained.

What food takes you back to childhood? 
Noodle soup. It’s always been my breakfast ever since I moved away from Thailand when I was 18 because it reminds me of my first noodle shop business.

What’s next on the cards?
Looking to open more Rosa’s outside of London. The demand and trend for vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on menus has inspired us to develop this further on our menus.

Book a table here. 

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