Like most 23-year-olds, Bobby Pradachith is eager to separate himself from his parents and make a name for himself. Especially since he works in the same industry as his mom, who happens to be Seng Luangrath—the chef and owner of Thip Khao in Columbia Heights and Bangkok Golden in Falls Church, Virginia.
Unlike his mother, Pradachith was born in the U.S. and grew up in Alexandria. He sees himself as Lao-American and sometimes feels a little like an outsider when he’s with family.
“I remember getting these crude comments from the older generation of my family saying I’m not Lao because I can’t speak the language and I have an American accent,” he says. “It really disappointed me. I felt bad.”
Then Pradachith had a light bulb moment. “I told myself that if I can’t learn the language, I want to make food my language to understand who I am as a person, where my family comes from, and be within the culture as much as possible.”
The young chef, whose resume includes Toki Underground and minibar by José Andrés, hopes to open his own restaurant that draws influence from 17th century Laos. “I’ve been reading a lot of historical books with old recipes that date back to the early 1600s,” Pradachith says. They’re the kind of recipes that call for “handfuls” as measurements.
“I want to continue with the family business,” he goes on. “We’ll have Bangkok Golden, Thip Khao, and my concept going back in time with Lao culture.” As a chef and co-owner of both of his mother’s businesses, he’s been brought up to speed on the business side of running a restaurant.
Pradachith, like many budding chefs, will first test the waters with a pop-up called Amone. The first one will be held at Mess Hall from Nov. 10-12. Pradachith hopes to price the meal around $70 per person, plus optional beverage pairings.
A sample five-course menu includes:
Course One (family style)
Khao Niew with Jaew Sticky Rice served with fresh vegetables, Lao riverweed and an array of dipping sauces
Som Paa & Sai Oua Rice-cured (Scallops or Bass), fermented pork sausage vinaigrette, pineapple, cashews, kaffir lime
Laab Gai Minced guinea fowl, banana blossoms, fish sauce, herbs, toasted rice
Course Four (family style)
Gaeng Kee Lek Cassod leaves stew, rice-crusted (fish), spinach puree, crispy galangal, scallions
Woon Mak Pao Fresh coconut water jelly, sour coconut, palm sugar brittle, puffed rice, salted plum, mint oil
Click here for tickets.