Pailin's Story: From a Southern Thai Girl to a Cooking Show Host
Sawaddee ka, thank you for stopping by, and nice to meet you! 🙏🏼
If you're wondering how I went from being a kid in southern Thailand to teaching Thai cooking in English language to millions of viewers from around the world, read my story below! Or if you prefer to watch, here's a YouTube video from many years back where I shared my story.
Cooking has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Hat Yai in southern Thailand, I always found myself in the kitchen, doing whatever I could to help prepare family dinners. I made coconut milk by hand, pounded curry pastes and got chilis in my eyes more than once!
We moved to Bangkok when I was a teen and we lived close to an international school, so that's where I went. This is why I "speak English so well," as many have asked, aside from my 1-year stint as an exchange student in New Zealand. I maintained my interest in cooking throughout my teen years, but with the introduction of cable TV...I also discovered "cooking shows."
I was enamoured by the likes of Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and many others who kept me glued to the screen. I was convinced that hosting a cooking show would be my dream job. But how does a girl from Thailand become Nigella? (Remember this was over 20 years ago). Exactly, so I didn't give it any serious thought.
After high school I headed for the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada to study nutritional sciences (only because it was the only food-related major available). After graduation I started working as a cook in professional kitchens, and by this point I was convinced that I wanted to devote my life to cooking.
I moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school to further my skills at Le Cordon Bleu, and continued to work in the restaurant industry. Why San Francisco? Someone told me the food was good there, so I went! (Hey, I was young.)
Turns out, going to SF was a decision that changed my life. By sheer coincidence my brother Eddie moved to SF at the exact same time for work, so we decided to be roommates.
I told Eddie about my dream to have a cooking show, which I still kept in my head despite not actively pursuing it. He asked me, "How are you gonna have a cooking show working in a kitchen in a restaurant?" Good question. No idea.
He had an idea though. He suggested I started a cooking show on YouTube, and "maybe one day someone will discover your videos and then put you on TV." At the time I thought YouTube was just a place for cat videos, so the idea of "a show" on YouTube completely surprised and excited me.
So in 2009 I started Hot Thai Kitchen, a Thai cooking show on YouTube. And while I considered other cooking topics, I decided to focus on Thai food. After many years in N. America by that point, I realized that Thai food here didn't really taste the same as back home. So I wanted to show the world the Thai food that I grew up eating, and how they can make it at home.
I posted my first video showing people how to make what I thought was the most famous Thai dish: tom yum goong. (Don't go looking, that video is private now because it's too embarrassing, sorry!)
I was afraid no one would find my video, so I emailed it to everyone I knew (I think today that's called spam? 😂). Then I posted another one a few weeks later, and another.
Next thing you know I had a few "subscribers," and I didn't even know what they were at the time! The YouTube show continued to be a hobby for many years, posting off and on as I continued to work in the restaurant industry.
As YouTube evolved, it became clear that a YouTube channel could be "a serious thing," so I started to post more regularly, and also started hot-thai-kitchen.com as a place to put written recipes. And slowly but surely, the channel grew, and now I no longer work in restaurants and devote all of my working hours to teaching others about Thai cooking.
It's still a very small venture, but over the years a couple people joined the team. Adam, a long time friend who started by lending me his kitchen for filming, eventually became the cameraman and now an official part of HTK. My other brother, Art, has also joined the team as the show's editor and art director.
So as it turned out I didn't need to be on TV to have a "real" cooking show. Though eventually I did when I joined a Canadian food channel Gusto as a host for their cooking show One World Kitchen. I have also published a cookbook that lays the foundation for Thai cuisine, with another one coming in March 2023.
I am now back in Vancouver, with my husband Craig and my young son Kaan. My parents, Eddie, and extended family are still in Thailand, so I go back regularly to see them, to stay in touch with my culture, and to find more interesting things to share with you all!
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About Hot Thai Kitchen
Hot Thai Kitchen is a cooking show I started on YouTube with an educational approach to Thai cooking that started in 2009, with millions of monthly views on YouTube.
Thai recipes are everywhere on the internet, but I want to share something more: a true understanding of the steps and the ingredients, and even the cultural background of the dish. This is what really excites me, and this is what HotThai Kitchen is all about. All my recipes have been tested multiple times so you never have to worry if it'll work!
Occasionally I share recipes and food videos that are outside of Thai cuisine because, hey, I love cooking ALL kinds of foods and I was actually French trained. Most of these are still Asian dishes, cuz that's where my heart (and stomach) is. (PS. This non-Thai show was previously called "Pai's Kitchen" so you might still see that logo around, though it has since been merged into Hot Thai Kitchen to keep things simple.)