Desmond Chen is proprietor and president of the Thai House Restaurant Group in Vancouver – which operates a plethora of popular dining locations throughout the city and lower-mainland. He's self-made, having worked his way up since childhood and has become a major restaurant personality in the city. Find out more about this YP in today's feature...
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Every day is different and peppered with a variety of kitchen and front of house issues and constant tweeting. Although I have a full time social media person to deal with all of our businesses' twitter accounts, and a General Manager for the restaurant operations, there’s always something that needs to be attended to. From property management to business development and conceiving new restaurant concepts, to controlling food/labour costs and maintaining group buying quality standards, I am responsible to oversee everything from operations and marketing related for eight restaurants in the Thai House Restaurant Group.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
My career got off to an early start, by placing a notorious delivery order for lobster at one of my dad’s restaurants as an eight-year-old kid. By eighth grade I was working in the kitchen as a kitchen assistant (dishwasher), then moved throughout the organization, learning how to prepare Thai sauces, cook, driving deliveries, and waiting tables as the Thai House empire expanded. Upon graduating from high-school, I became a father and fast-forwarded my life. I began working in property management, while assisting with marketing and accounts payable at Thai House’s head office. Over the years I attended annual trips to Thailand with the Thai House executive chefs and further developed my own passion for Thai food and culture and the desire to introduce something innovative and new to Vancouver.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I love returning to the restaurants in the evenings after I’ve recharged at home with my family. It’s great to enjoy the social aspects of my industry – greeting familiar guests and meeting new ones. On the other hand, returning to work in the morning and prioritizing the day’s to-dos is not something I relish.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I’d like to expand our Thai House Group to double digit locations and to include a central kitchen that services catering and product development divisions.
What does success look like to you?
Leading a happy, well balanced life.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Being nominated by the BCRFA in 2003 from my industry peers for the prestigious Bill Tuson Restaurateur of the Year Award.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
It’s essential to love what you do and be prepared to put 110 per cent into your business. Jump in with both feet and don’t ever sweat the small stuff.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Being very family-oriented, the work at BC Children’s Hospital is very important to me and my family’s business, as well as those across the province.
What is Notable to you?
Turning a liability into an asset. Building a successful business from scratch.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Double fisting both the Blackberry and iPhone.