JLife speaks to Ban Kaewkraikhot, owner and head chef of Sukhothai, the home of authentic Thai food in Leeds and Harrogate, to discover how the restaurant has creatively continued to serve the community through lockdown.
Ban is Back!
Since her Chapel Allerton branch opened back in 2002, owner and head chef, Ban Kaewkraikhot, has received critical acclaim and won numerous awards for her fabulous, authentic Thai food in Yorkshire. While Sukhothai has become known as one of the premier Thai fine-dining establishments in the region, offering authentic Thai food and five-star service in the most stunning surroundings, new exciting brands have emerged for the business. We spoke to Ban about the challenges she faced with the pandemic, and how the future looks ahead.
Have your restaurants now reopened, and what lies ahead for you?
We’ve now reopened all of our restaurants in line with the restrictions being eased. It’s been such a tough 12 months, with us being locked down on three separate occasions, but we’re just happy to be back open, and back to what we do best – cooking for our fantastic customers.
The support from our customers since we’ve reopened has been amazing. We’ve received so many nice messages, people are really happy we’re back open again. Hopefully things can now start to get back to normal. I just want to say a big thank you to everyone for their support over the past year, it’s really what has kept us going.
During the months you’ve been closed, what have you been working on?
During the period we were closed we felt we needed to do our bit to help the NHS and vulnerable people, so we started fundraising. We set up a JustGiving page with the aim to raise £5,000, which we achieved and then some. We actually ended up raising over £7,000. All the money raised went towards providing meals for NHS staff, key workers, vulnerable people and the homeless. We ended up cooking and donating 3,750 meals to various causes around Yorkshire including St. James Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary, NHS Nightingale, Yorkshire Ambulance, York Hospital, St Gemma’s Hospice, Donisthorpe Hall, a number of schools, care homes and many more. We’re really proud we
have managed to help so many inspirational key workers. Alongside our meal donations, we also worked on developing a range of premium Thai ready meals, under our ZAAP THAI brand. We called this new venture, Ban’s Kitchen, and now have a range of 22 Thai ready meal main courses, and six starters packs, that we can now ship frozen to anywhere in mainland UK. We had to work very fast to build a new website and develop this range, and have since shipped our food to all corners of the UK. Check out our website, Banskitchenbyzaapthai.co.uk.
Alongside developing our range of ready meals, we’ve also branched out into the fruit and veg market. We’ve been working with farms in
Thailand, every week we ship over exotic Thai fruit and veg to our HQ in Kirkstall, which is all available to buy through our website Bkmarket.co.uk.
We import a huge range of products, including fresh mango, pink dragonfruit, green papaya and love it or hate it, durian. Alongside the fresh
produce, we also have a range of other Thai produce, including sauces, pastes, condiments, dry goods and much more for home delivery.
Most recently back in April we took the opportunity to rebrand Sukhothai Headingley, and open a ZAAP THAI in its place. ZAAP is a unique, exciting and family-friendly dining experience that truly captures the vibrancy of downtown Bangkok and the amazing taste sensations of Thai cuisine.
We believe ZAAP has been a great addition to the existing diversity that already exists in Headingley, and I want to thank the community
for the warm welcome we’ve had.
Finally, what do you see the ‘new normal’ to be?
Since we reopened our restaurants on 17th May, we are operating at a reduced capacity. We’ve invested in lots of separation screens and other
protection for the restaurants so our customers can feel safe when they dine with us. Our tables are also further apart, so we won’t be able to fit as many people in as we previously did, but customer and staff safety is what’s most important to us. We are so thankful to all our customers who have stuck with us over the past year. We are praying things get back to normal quickly but safely and are relying on the
continued support of our fantastic customers.
www.sukhothai.co.uk | www.zaapthai.co.uk | www.banskitchenbyzaapthai.co.uk | www.bkmarket.co.uk