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If you ask torsit sarisdiwongse how long he has been with greyhound café, he will jokingly answer: "since the day they planted the pillars down in emporium." this is the very man who has perfected the recipes of hip fusion dishes such as salmon sashimi in hot spicy sauce or fried rice with pla salid 20 years ago — long before cool and trendy proliferated thailand’s dining scene.

First founded in 1998, today, the bangkok-born café finds itself a popular dining venue in shanghai, beijing, hong kong, singapore, malaysia, indonesia and as of latest, london — with their restaurant on berners street recently opening last december.

As the corporate executive chef, torsit is a heavyweight behind all restaurant openings in new territories. He reveals that the london branch is one of the biggest accomplishments for the group.

Some of the company’s best talents have been allocated to london, ready to serve homesick thai students on the prowl for duck noodles.London branch signatures from bangkok will be available, but the london menu will also see brand new dishes such as weeping wolf (grilled lamb on a bed of slice cucumbers) or todmun pops, where fishcakes are already dipped in the sauce and can be eaten fuss-free, due to their bite-sized portion. Clearly, the fun element in greyhound’s food pertains and if europeans like this tongue-in-cheek and contemporary approach to thai food, more greyhound cafés could be opening up in the western hemisphere.

In his past two decades with the increasingly international restaurant empire, the 54-year-old must divide his time between creating new menus for all branches around the world, making sure the fried chicken across all 14 bangkok branches tastes the same, and all the while finding time to chit chat with street som tam vendors for dish ideas. We talk to the creator of the renowned spaghetti with thai anchovy about the challenges of selling modern thai food abroad and of injecting creativity into dishes.Thai food

One of the stakeholders is the older sibling of my close friend. It’s a lot like family, where you hang out at their house and also meet their older siblings. The creative director [of greyhound and greyhound café], bhanu inkawat, wanted to open a restaurant, a place for friends to hang out. When they knew that I was working as a chef at the grand hyatt over 20 years ago, they asked me to come in to talk about it. It was a coming together of someone who could imagine all these things but didn’t know how to cook it and someone who could cook but couldn’t really think of anything. These two people met and have walked together all the way here ever since.

Greyhound cafés have been opened abroad before in hong kong, malaysia, etc. Was opening this new london branch any more challenging than your previous restaurants abroad?

It was, due to differing communication styles. There is a time difference and we are perhaps too active!Greyhound café we also had to get used to laws we weren’t informed of before, such as how there cannot be tables on the streets. I also had to change my kitchen plan designs because there are usually two sinks, but sanitation laws there require at least three different sinks. Even our staff there, who have worked in thai restaurants before, needed to relearn about ingredients. They may know that a kaphrao needs to have basil, but they have been taught wrongly because restaurants they previously worked for used italian basil because it’s cheaper. They have all this wrong information so we had to reteach them how everything should truly smell and look like.

Our team saw a lot of thai food there mainly being tom yum goong and pad thai, with thai-decorations, heavy with teakwood and someone thai dancing in the background. Yet, there’s also stores decorated with gas petrol cans and serve larb like at gas stations here.Greyhound café they even have those pink and purple plastic plates they are usually served in, but I still feel the palate there is too sweet and leans towards a farang taste too much. If we were to go, thai food still needs to taste like thai food. We cannot use the wrong ingredients and we will import them if they are unavailable.

Bangkok’s branches look modern and cool, but we wanted people who saw our london branch to be reminded of bangkok. On the interior side, there are decorations like bamboo wove into tilapia fishes or fairy lights like you’d see at the temple fair. Food-wise, we’ve always been basic with a twist, where we aren’t completely thai and there is a mixture of ingredients. Our top 10 fusion dishes such as fried rice with pla salid or spaghetti with thai anchovies are available, but we also snuck in lots of street food dishes like som tam and grilled chicken. It’s served with the sticks too, so it doesn’t only taste good, but is also creative and shows its origins.Greyhound café this way, customers don’t only see it simply chopped up on a plate, but how grilled chicken is made from a cart in wichian buri. There’s always the element of fun in our dishes, where some don’t even need to be eaten with a spoon and fork.

It’s all open and everyone in the team is able to share their ideas. I’m usually the one who has to put people back in line. The dreamer doesn’t do it so they don’t know how difficult things are, but I’m the one cooking who knows and has to say, it’s too complicated and time consuming, how about we do this instead? They thought about hot pots to be served in london, but there are safety hazards — what if it falls on someone’s head? We also thought about fiery stir-fries because westerners have never seen it before. But what if the smoke detector goes off? We may be able to do it outdoors, but what do we do when it’s -2C outside? I try to tweak it down so the kitchen and service can apply it.Greyhound café

We came from mixing things together and want foreigners to understand that thai food doesn’t stand still. We want them to see our modern side. There are hundreds of thai dishes, but why are only tom yum goong or green curry popular? How can we get farangs to know of more dishes like octopus stir-fried with salted egg? How to separate a poh taek from tom yum? They only know the top 10 so we’re trying to get them to know more. Luring them in is sometimes through good presentation. There’s things like kluay tak (sun-dried banana), which was fashioned into a cake, so they can know more tastes of thailand.

If I could choose, I wouldn’t, because even if I’m not eating it, I still have to think about it! If we get three similar customer complaints, it’s something I can’t avoid. I tend to eat the seasonal special dishes, but our top 10 signatures like fried chicken or spaghetti with thai anchovies are dishes I never get bored of.Thai food

Some of the popular drinks, main dishes and desserts from the london menu are currently served in bangkok, under the keep calm and get excited campaign with citibank. Running until march 31, for every 1,000 baht spent, customers get a lucky draw ticket to win prizes such as a trip to london and gift vouchers to dine at greyhound café.