Meet Your Merchant: Grub Thai
For this month’s Meet Your Merchant section, the Snowmass Sun sat down with Phaiboon Noimuangkoon, known as Pete, and Vladan Djordjevic of Grub Thai, which opened in late 2018 on the Snowmass Mall to learn more about the local Asian restaurant and the people who make it possible:
Snowmass Sun: How long have you lived in Snowmass?
Pete Phaiboon: This is my second year.
SS: And how did you get involved with Grub Thai?
PP: So I used to work in a restaurant in Aspen for over 10 years and then I moved to Denver for a couple of years. Then my partner (Djordjevic) called me and was like, “Hey do you want to open a Thai restaurant?” Thailand is where I’m from and where I studied culinary in Thailand cooking school, so I graduated with a degree in the hospitality industry and know public food.
SS: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
PP: Oh at a young age. I always cooked for my family. I grew up on a farm and I was happy to prepare food for them. I love cooking for my friends too, and my cousin (Djordjevic’s wife) loves cooking, too.
I really like seeing people happy when they eat and when they say, “Hey, your food is so good.” It makes me feel good.
SS: What made you want to open Grub Thai in Snowmass?
Vladan Djordjevic: This is my seventh restaurant in the valley. I owned the bowling alley before and opened Aspen Over Easy and Wienerstube downvalley. But my wife is Thai and Pete is her cousin, so we really opened up a family business. She’s from south Thailand, he’s from the north so we put all of it together.
… This is a great location. I mean the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was here for almost 30 years. When I owned the Little Mammoth Steakhouse and ( the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) said they were going to leave the space, I got in touch with Dwayne Romero and told him my idea to open a Thai place, because that’s what’s missing here in Snowmass. And he liked the idea and he helped with a lot of stuff. We did the remodeling and changed everything and it’s doing good now.
SS: What got you into the restaurant and food and beverage industry? What do you like about it?
VD: I don’t know, I’ve been in restaurants for like the last 20 years or more. I was working on a cruise ship before and I was living in Miami where I was for a long time. Then in 2008 I came to Aspen for one season and that was it, 12 years later I’m still here. And in 2009 we bought the first place in Snowmass, which was called Lime, and then after we operated that we transferred it to the Little Mammoth Steakhouse… so I open a restaurant, run the restaurant and then sell it usually to friends or people who work for me. So I always have a new project and like to go out and see what is missing.
SS: And why did you guys feel a Thai restaurant would do well in Snowmass and was needed here?
PP: Like I said I worked in an Asian restaurant in Aspen for many years and we would get many phone calls a day from the Snowmass area for our Asian food. And so we just had an idea that it would really work.
VD: And it’s healthy, 80% of our menu is gluten free. We use rice noodles and everything is made for order so we use all the freshest ingredients. … Lots of people are really familiar with this cuisine, with Thai food, and so we’ve really tried to bring that format with homemade cooking. … I always know everything’s going to be perfect, we have all Thai people in the kitchen, it’s not like I’m hiring someone else to cook. That’s one of the most important things in the restaurant.
Plus, we’re not expensive, everything is affordable for people and we do lunch specials and a local’s discount, too. We do what we can to take care of the locals, especially during these crazy times.
SS: Yeah, how has this pandemic time period been for you guys, how have you worked to continue to serve locals and get through it?
VD: I mean, we started off really well this year. It was great. And then when the virus came here everything closed in March. So it wasn’t that great and you still see the lack of people out there. But we’re still surviving and I think we will survive. (Grub Thai reopened its doors amid the pandemic about three weeks ago.)
PP: There are a lot of local people who come in and support us, too, which is really great.
VD: Yeah the locals come and pick up food and support us so we’re very thankful for that.
SS: Are there any other ideas or goals you have for the restaurant moving forward, or anything else you feel is important the community knows?
VD: So we do have online ordering now so people can just go to our website … but besides that I am working on finding something to offer people in the morning, but it has to be something different because I don’t want to compete with the other restaurants. I have a couple ideas and am working out what would be best.
PP: I would just say to please come in, we are always happy to see locals.