I’m oh so excited to introduce a new blog feature to you. In order to spice things up a bit and bring you more interesting and informative posts, we welcome you all to Arugula & Rocket’s very first guest interview!
This new regular feature will be dedicated to inspirational and exciting people working in and around the food industry who I hope will inspire and entertain you as much as they do me.
Today we meet Max Borthwick, a local Seattle-ite of Thai heritage and the man behind Primo Pizza Parlour (one of my fave Seattle food haunts!) and Thaifusions, an exciting new range of authentic Thai sauces.
Name: Max Borthwick
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
What first inspired your interest in cooking? My very first job was working in a kitchen in O’Dea High School, a short distance from where I now have my pizzeria, Primo Pizza Parlor. Since then I’ve always worked in restaurants and all through college when I was younger. I remember valeting cars across the street from the first Thai restaurant in Seattle and smelling this amazing food from across the street. Pretty much from that point, I’ve always known that I wanted to be involved in the food industry in some way and have wanted to create my Mother’s recipes for retail for as long as I can remember.
How did you turn your passion for food into a career? I enjoy telling the story of my family and how we grew up. Back then, Thai food wasn’t very popular, and the regional cooking where my Mom is from was even further off the chart back then, today Issan or N.E. food is very popular. The food was so different from the food my friends and neighbors ate. It was foreign and very strange at the time, but at family get-togethers or cookouts my Mom’s food would always be the first to go. Growing up in Seattle I’d always wanted to connect with my Thai heritage and this was really my opportunity to do that.
What is your proudest achievement so far? I have a few very proud achievements. Our restaurant Toi, named after my Mother, was our first and a huge hit in Seattle. We took over the old Dahlia Lounge, a very popular and respected restaurant in Seattle, so we had some pretty big shoes to fill. Within the first year it was voted “best new restaurant” and received many other accolades.
Second is definitely Thaifusions. With the success of Toi restaurant, I knew we had to get our sauces out to consumers, but not knowing anything about the retail business, it was really hard work. We literally started one bottle at a time, glue-sticking and hand labeling bottles in my apartment and then walking them in to stores. Today we have a range of 10 products (and 3 exclusive Williams-Sonoma sauces), that are sold nationwide, which makes me extremely proud. Every member of my family is involved in the business and we have worked hard together to gain distribution in some of the best retailers in the country. Considering none of us have had any previous experience in the retail world, this makes me feel so proud.
What is the best aspect of your job? The creative outlet and opportunity to express myself through my background and family history. Additionally, the thrill and excitement of creating new products, and the anticipation of that new prospect or potential achievement around the corner. It definitely fuels the fire and keeps me constantly motivated.
What is the worst aspect of your job? Being a small company, or business, you have to do it all. I wouldn’t say it’s the worst thing, but a lot of times the task lists are so overwhelming and the balance of having to manage your strengths against your weaknesses can be hard. However out of that, I believe my family and I have become much better because of it.
Sweet or savory? Savory.
What’s your favorite dish to cook? I make really great Thai pizzas that I think are unique with authentic flavor combining the best of both worlds and using the resources that I work with both at Primo and with Thaifusions. I also pride myself on my dough recipe that I’ve tweaked over the past few years. It’s probably the best it’s ever been right now.
What’s the best recipe you’ve ever made? I’m working on a Thai Green chili sauce right now that I think people are really going to love!
What’s your guilty food pleasure? Anything with a fried egg on top of it… hash, fried rice, or even a burger, with Thai sauces of course!
Where do you get your inspiration from when creating a new recipe? Definitely traveling in Thailand. The sounds, action and colors at street vendor stalls are so resourceful and exciting. As well as looking through food magazines, and trying different products.
What food could you never live without? Thai food without a doubt. I think it’s the most dynamic food category, period. There are so many different dishes and combinations and regional influences that you could try a new dish every day for a year.
What piece of equipment could you never live without? A Grill.
What’s your best cooking tip? Slow cooking and preparation while listening to your favorite music in whatever mood you’re in really brings out the enjoyment.
Where are your favorite places to eat? My favorite places are road-side, Mom and Pop restaurants or café’s, and dining on the street. Travelling and eating will expand everything…
Who is your favourite chef? My Mom of course! Having never cooked commercially, for retail or in a restaurant environment, she transitioned from a traditional family cook to fully experienced chef! I’m inspired every day by how hard she works.
What’s next for you? I would really like to travel more and to continue to be inspired through new experiences. Creating new ideas for products and the inspiration from those experiences is what really excites me. I am very thankful and feel like the opportunities are endless – to be able to share these feelings with my family is the best.
The Thaifusions’ range of All Natural Authentic Thai Sauces are now available to buy from Williams-Sonoma in the USA, including 3 exclusive Williams-Sonoma flavours, or visit www.thaifusions.com to gain further information.
Max’s restaurant, Primo Pizza Parlor, is located at 1106 8th Avenue, Seattle.
You can also find recipes and Thai Cooking Techniques from Max on the Williams-Sonoma YouTube Channel.