The Story of Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok Thai Empire
Andy Ricker is quick to point out that he comes from a family of people with addictive personality disorder. He himself has become addicted to a number of things throughout his life, including rock climbing. So three years after opening Pok Pok it wasn’t difficult for him to decide that he wanted to prepare Thai food forever.
The word ‘farang’ literally means blonde, as is the hair color of many foreigners that visit Thailand. What made Andy Ricker stand out wasn’t his blond hair, though. It was the fact that he was able to eat and enjoy Thai food. This came as a shock to locals, because they had always believed that Farang weren’t able to eat spicy dishes.
A lot of the Thai immigrants who moved to the States and opened restaurants, did it to make a living, and not because they were interested in spreading their culture. So when Pok Pok opened it was a huge surprise to the Thai community.
Andy Ricker is frequently asked why he does what he does. His food tastes exactly as in Thailand. This was Andy’s goal. For instance, instead of buying curry paste, he makes his own. He does the same thing with a lot of the other ingredients. People who go to Thai restaurants wouldn’t even notice the difference in the extra steps. Yet because of his obsession, Andy insists on doing things in a certain way. That’s probably why he owns seven restaurants.
Very few of Ricker’s cooks know anything about Thai food when they first come to work at one of his restaurants, but he has no problems explaining exactly what he wants to have done for each dish on the menu.
According to Ricker, there’s no secret to success and there’s no formula that gives you an instant hit or an instantly great restaurant. You get lucky sometimes.
Food editor and critic for Portland Monthly Magazine Karen Brooks calls Andy “a dog with a sock”. There’s nothing in his playbook that says he should have made it. Except that he is so determined. His dream is to make people understand what it is that keeps driving him back to Thailand all these years.
This is the story of how chef Andy Ricker took an obsession and turned it into an empire at the age of forty. He became a student of street vendors and used his love for Thai food to take the restaurant business to another level. The documentary covers Andy’s activities from his childhood to the present day and was filmed in Chiang Mai, Portland, and New York in 2013. Watch this film now.