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Chef Spotlight: Chef Yo of PINTO GARDEN in NYC


Chef Teerawong Nanthavatsiri, also known as Yo, was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand where he began his professional life following another love of his: theatre. In fact, Nanthavatsiri obtained a B.F.A. in Theatre Design at Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok and moved to New York City to further his studies at Columbia University. Although he initially wanted to pursue a directing career, Nanthavatsiri found a passion for the culinary industry when he began working in restaurants to support his new life in New York. Drawing parallels between the two career paths, Nanthavatsiri eventually forewent a career in directing to pursue a culinary one, but approached the restaurant business through the eyes of a theatre director by imagining that the restaurant is his stage and the dinner service is his time to perform. The concept for Pinto Garden began at Pinto, a Thai restaurant Nanthavatsiri opened on Christopher Street in 2006. Inspired by a stage at Per Se and prompting from Thomas Keller, Nanthavatsiri closed the doors to Pinto and opened Pinto Garden on 10th Street, with a renewed focus on locally sourced ingredients and truly authentic Thai recipes. He also expanded the Pinto name to Brooklyn Heights in early 2016. interviewed Chef Yo about his career and Pinto Garden for our "Chef Spotlight."

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I've always liked to have parties since I was a kid. I love gathering people around and getting everyone together. I hosted parties for friends and family on birthdays, graduations, baby showers, New Year, etc. My interest in cooking started then.

Who were some of your career mentors?

In terms of career mentors, I would say Chef Thomas Keller. Not only did I learn the way he cooks from his books, but also more importantly, the way he designs and organizes his food and kitchen. His story is such an inspiration for me as a chef.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

The culinary styles that influenced me come from everywhere. It depends on the recipe and the dish. But mainly I look to classic Thai cooking, incorporating it with French, Italian, and modern techniques. At Pinto Garden, I enjoy creating dishes that represent all regions in Thailand, especially dishes that you can't find anywhere else in New York City!

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

It would be finding ingredients that best match my recipes. I have a background and passion for acting and directing, so for me, cooking is like auditioning actors for the perfect roles then figuring out how to tell stories with those actors, or ingredients. The fun part is mixing and matching ingredients with a new recipe and finding a way to present the dish. I also think it's important to use local vendors and farmers who provide the best and freshest ingredients.

What is your favorite meal or meals?

My favorite meal would be anything made with noodles, no matter where it is from-Thai Drunken Noodles, Chinese Egg Noodles with Wonton, Ramen, Soba, or Pasta. I do love a nice pasta dish!

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

Pinto Garden is a seasonal Thai restaurant in the West Village. As a small business trying to support other small businesses, we get the best ingredients for our recipes from local vendors and farmers. At both Pinto Garden (West Village) and Pinto (Brooklyn Heights), we try to represent all regions of Thailand in our dishes. We also serve our food family style, which is the traditional way to eat in Thailand. My goal is to make my guests feel like they are coming to my house to have dinner made from the freshest ingredients I can find. I want them to experience the warmness of eating at home.

Pinto Garden is located in the West Village of Manhattan at 117 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10011. Call 212.366.5455.

The Pinto Garden location in Brooklyn Heights is located at 128 Montague Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Call 929.337.7732.

For more information, visit the Pinto Garden web site at

Photo Credit: Mikey Asanin

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