Tommy Tang’s story begins in Bangkok where he was the eldest son of 12 children, leaving school at the tender age of eleven to help support his family. He held a succession of odd jobs that included a floor-fan cleaner, welder, construction worker, busboy, wheelbarrow maker, boxer, auto mechanic, tennis teacher and drummer, as well as cooking alongside his father in their restaurant in the Grand Central. During the Vietnam War, Tommy found himself surrounded by Americans as he worked the switchboard at the Windsor Hotel in Bangkok and as a bellhop at the Narai Hotel. The American sense of ambition appealed to his entrepreneur tendencies and he decided to move to the U.S. to seek his fortune.
In the US while working as a manager of rock bands and a music producer, he took time out to complete his education at Palos Verde College in Southern California. However, Tommy found his true calling when he took a day job as Chef/Manager at a little known Thai restaurant in Hollywood. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THAI FOOD WAS ALMOST TOTALLY UNKNOWN TO AMERICANS AT THAT TIME. The few Thai restaurants in the LA area were frequented mostly by Asians and a few others who fell in off the street by accident! Within a year, thanks to Tommy’s unique talents and his personalized style of Modern Thai Cuisine, Thai food was THE RAGE! He soon drew a loyal following which included CHER, TOM CRUISE, MADONNA, JACKSON BROWNE, EARTH, WIND & FIRE, QUEEN, ORSON WELLS AND COUNTLESS OTHERS. It was there he met his future wife, a marketing specialist who eventually became his partner.
Together they opened, to much international acclaim, Tommy Tang’s restaurant in West Hollywood in 1982 and simultaneously pioneered the famous Melrose Avenue shopping/dining scene. IN 1986, TOMMY BECAME THE 1ST BI-COASTAL CHEF IN THE U.S. with the opening of their New York City Restaurant. The Thai movement had moved its way across country with Tommy now considered the “GODFATHER” of this immensely popular Southeast Asian cuisine.
The rest as they say, is CULINARY HISTORY. More than twenty five years later, Tommy’s impact on the food world is truly legendary….restaurants and food manufactures all over the world have duplicated Tommy’s Modern Thai dishes: 4 Pad Thai recipes at Wolfgang Puck Cafes, California Pizza Kitchens most popular “Thai BBQ Chicken Pizza”, 4 Thai inspired dishes on THE VERY AMERICAN Cheesecake Factory menu’s, to items at many fast food restaurants and grocery shelves. That’s only the tip of the iceberg… Thai inspired items are everywhere today, thanks to Tommy Tang.
Today Tommy produces his highly regarded Cooking & Travel Series for the PBS Network, with almost 200 shows to date since 1994. While developing new food concept programs for PBS, consulting projects, other television and film projects, he continues to oversee his Tsunami Children’s Foundation (www.tsunamicf.org) that he founded in 2005.
It’s no surprise that this highly visible chef with the gifts of creativity, vision and compassion has become one of the most respected culinary experts in the US today.