Chef Jet Tila Reveals Epic Ride to the Top Ahead of the Bar & Restaurant Expo
From battling the legendary Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America to hosting appearances on The TODAY Show and Cutthroat Kitchen, internationally celebrated Chef Jet Tila has made a name for himself in the food & beverage industry.
As an immigrant son turned Food Network success, Chef Tila is set to deliver a keynote address that offers first-hand insight on his journey, trending topics, and strategies for ensuring ease when it comes to introducing new menu items.
Attendees at this year’s Bar & Restaurant Expo can look forward to hearing from Chef Tila – a James Beard nominee and best-selling author who is also VP of culinary for Pei Wei Group, managing partner at Dragon Tiger Noodle Co in Las Vegas, and Culinary Ambassador of Thai Cuisine.
Millennial caught up with Chef Tila to dive deeper into his inspiring story as well as glean valuable insights on current food & beverage trends and restaurant best practices.
Explain your journey from immigrant son to celebrity Chef.
My family immigrated to the states in 1966 and opened the [first Thai] Market in [Los Angeles] in the 70’s. English was my 3rd language and we lived very simply on some government assistance. They worked their way up and I attended French and Culinary schools, then onto work for some of the best food companies in the US.
As a member of the “first family” of Thai food in Los Angeles, who do you credit most for your success?
My cooking success is attributed to my grandmother from my mom’s side who really helped me channel my ADHD energy into cooking from a young age. My father was a fearless visionary that taught me anything was possible, and my mother gave me the love and support that drove me.
Describe the breakthough moment when you knew your career was taking off.
I cooked a tasting at Encore Las Vegas as a relative unknown and was offered the job on the spot. From obscurity to executive chef at one of the most prestigious hotels in the world. Then I battled my idol Morimoto on Iron Chef and almost won, then was asked to judge more Food Network Shows.
What is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?
Even through much success in restaurants, media and entrepreneurship, my biggest success is my marriage and family. I am always trying to find the balance between life and work.
You have set many world records during your career. Tell us about them.
I’ve broken 5 world records for stir fry twice- 900 pounds then 4,000 pounds. Sushi Roll 600 feet. Granola Bar 420 feet. Seafood Stew 6,000 pounds. Fruit Salad 14,000 pounds.
What is the “best” mistake you’ve made to date and how did it affect your life?
I’ve always been too dumb to say “no.” From cooking at Google, to Wynn then Food Network, I always just went for it.
Over the years, you’ve worked with culinary legends. Which Master Chef do you admire most, and why?
I’ve had some personal mentoring from Alton Brown, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Alex Guarnachelli. I mean personal time reviewing my career and getting real life advice. It’s kind of the dream set of mentors and they each have shaped parts of my life and career.
What are your thoughts on the current food and beverage trends, and where do you think the industry is heading next?
Overall, international food/ethnic/global cuisine aren’t foreign any longer. With Gen Z and younger, these are the foods they want to eat every day, heck we all do! So, we must reshape the delineation of cuisines. Ready to Drink (RTD) beverages, especially wine/cocktails/spirits will continue to dominate. Fancier suburban food because I see city people migrating to the burbs.
As a renowned chef with a distinct culinary style, how do you approach the process of developing new dishes or putting your own unique spin on traditional recipes?
It starts with travel and eating everything. Then I study how people are eating and moving. There’s nothing truly new but there are unique combinations of mash up/fusions, brining less known ingredients into familiar formats. And the appetite for more authentic will continue, so knowing what is on trend now, to the bleeding edge, is important.
Of the 101 Thai Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die, which is your favorite to serve and why?
Northern Pork Belly Curry because it is the dish that personifies my family and culture. Kind of Chinese, kind of Thai, kind of mix of Southeast Asian.
What is the best advice you can give someone who wants to open a restaurant in 2023?
Check yourself before you reck yourself…really do your homework…write an airtight B plan and have people you trust poke holes in it.
Chef Tila will give the opening keynote speech, From Rags to Dishes: 5 Lessons in Leadership and Success on Tuesday, March 28 from 11 am – 11: 45 am. He has also been given the honor of leading the ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially open the Bar & Restaurant Expo floor.
Those interested in attending the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo can find more information about the expo. Bar & Restaurant Expo is a trade event and not open to the public.