Where in the World is Chef Dee Buizer?
In this enthralling episode of Life Along The Streetcar, we whisk our listeners away on a mouth-watering journey to the bustling streets of Bangkok with none other than the culinary genius, Chef Dee. Drawing on her unique experiences and culinary expertise, Chef Dee takes us through the myriad flavors, textures, and aromas that define the rich tapestry of Thai street food, especially the coveted dishes that have received Michelin stars!
Highlights from the Conversation:
- The Origin Story: Chef Dee’s introduction to Thai cuisine and how her upbringing influenced her culinary journey.
- Bangkok’s Best Kept Secrets: Chef Dee sheds light on some lesser-known dishes that every food lover should try at least once.
- From Street to Star: A deep dive into what it takes for street food dishes to earn the coveted Michelin star, and the passionate vendors behind them.
- Culinary Inspirations: The people, places, and experiences that have inspired some of Chef Dee’s most renowned dishes.
- The SinaiThai Experience: A sneak peek into Chef Dee’s upcoming venture, SinaiThai, and what makes it a must-visit culinary destination.
- Tips for Aspiring Chefs: Chef Dee shares golden nuggets of advice for those looking to embark on their own culinary adventures.
Connect with Chef Dee:
Been enticed by the tantalizing tales of Thai cuisine? Want to learn more, collaborate, or just send a word of appreciation to Chef Dee? Reach out to her directly at: [email protected].
Tune in Now!
Dive into the rich and vibrant world of Thai street food with Chef Dee. Hit play and let your culinary senses be tantalized. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, an aspiring chef, or just someone who loves a good travel story, this episode is sure to leave you craving for more!
About Life Along The Streetcar:
Your destination for intriguing conversations and inspiring stories. From food and culture to arts and local happenings, Life Along The Streetcar offers a unique perspective on the pulsating life that surrounds us.
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored, all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station. On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Chef D, formerly of the award winning Sinai Thai restaurant in downtown, and we’re going to catch up to see what she’s been doing since deciding to move on from that fabulous restaurant. Today is October 15th, 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s core and we’ve shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM streaming on downtownradio .org. Also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own downtown radio Tucson app. If you want to reach us on
the show, you can interact with us on Facebook and Instagram and if you want more information about us, our book, past episodes or to contact us, you can head over to our website, lifealongthestreetcar .org and of course, we invite you to listen to the podcast on all kinds of platforms like Spotify, iTunes and all that good stuff. If you’re out and about in downtown, you are aware of the fabulous festival called Tucson Meet Yourself, which we featured last week, we did an interview, an extended interview actually that we had done previously and in that interview, we mentioned it’s Tucson Eat Yourself because of this fabulous food and all the varieties that are there. Well, we were blessed in downtown for some time to have a restaurant that kind of fit that bill year -round. It was called Senae Thai and the owner of that, Dee, she ended up deciding to move on from the restaurant and I’ve been kind of keeping in touch with her and found out recently she’s starting a brand new venture and man,
it sounds fun. So we caught up with her to find out how she’s been using all of her creative energies. Well, one of our segments that we’ve talked about doing is where in the world are they now and we’re going to launch that today with Chef Dee who was famously the proprietor at Senae Thai in downtown for years, one of my favorite restaurants as well as many others and I’ve reconnected with Chef Dee and found out that she’s doing some really cool things. So I thought how fun would it be to finally, although I tried to get you on the show when you had the restaurant, but you were too busy for me, but now you are ready. Chef Dee, welcome to the show.
Well, thank you, Tom. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come on your show. Well, I think when you were running Senae Thai, I kept trying to get you on because I figured that would get me a little bit of perks when I came into the restaurant, but it turns out you were so popular, you didn’t have time for someone like me. Oh, please. I was busy
cooking because it was so hard to get enough help. I don’t think that’s changed. From what I talked to other restaurant owners in such downtown that the labor issue is still really, really affecting them and of course now costs in general are up, it’s challenging across the board. Yes. And I sympathize with all of my restaurant friends that I still keep in touch with them and I hear that labor is very difficult to secure. So Senae Thai was not like your first like, okay, I’m going to open up a restaurant sort of a venture that way. You come from a background, your family has had many restaurants across the country, right? I opened my first restaurant in Berkeley, California in 1987 and along the way, wherever I moved, I opened a restaurant. So yes, I’ve been in the industry since 87 and Tucson was my last baby. When did you move to Tucson? So it was 2013 that I moved to Tucson. My husband was recruited to U of A and so I thought, okay, I don’t know Tucson, but we’ll find out.
And when I came to Tucson, we asked my husband’s acquaintance colleagues, where do you go for Thai food? So we went and experimented those locations and that was the beginning and the end of Senae Thai Bistro. So you decided you wanted to bring your own flair to the Thai market here in Tucson. I had to. It was the cuisine that was missing at the time. And yeah, so I felt that I needed to introduce to the Tucson and what an upscale, refined Thai cuisine would taste like. Gotcha. And you did that so well. Thank you. I was a big fan, but I wasn’t the only one. You had a lot of people in Tucson, a lot of write -ups. Everyone that came in, I think, just really enjoyed that upscale Thai cuisine that you perfected for us. Thank you. Thank you so much for everyone’s support, really. And I want to shout out to all of my wonderful guests. Thank you for your support through the years. And I know I said that in my,
how do you call it? Your farewell letter? My farewell letter. So if I could take this opportunity to thank you to all my wonderful clients for the support, it meant a lot to me. Thank you. I’m sure that they’re going to be glad to hear from you. And I got to tell you, one of my favorite things ever was when I would walk in for dinner or for whatever meal, and you would come over and say, hey, we’re trying something new. Would you like to taste it? Yes. Yes, I would. How did you know? Always good stuff. And that is so fun. That’s so fun for me to do. And yeah, I enjoy that very much as well. So you’ve mentioned you’ve opened restaurants in different places. Are any of them still operating? Are you still involved with them? Yes. Thank you for asking. The one that I’m still involved as a silent partner, actually, not physically involved, is the one in San Francisco called Basil Thai Restaurants and Bar. That one was opened in 1995. And it’s still there to this day. My brother manages it, you
know. And the ones that I occasionally go to help out is my sister’s. And her restaurant is in Scottsdale. It’s called Soy 4, S -O -I number 4. So she and her husband and her son operate that one. But occasionally, when they all want to go on vacation, they ask if I would watch over the restaurant for them. And so I would go there and stay there for a week or, you know, or help out in a couple of weekends. So I’m actually there. So if you want to come and see me there, you know. By special appearance, Chef D. And is it Thai food as well? Is it the same cuisine? It’s Thai food. Very similar menu that I used to have. Of course, mine tasted way better. Of course, of course. And for one week every year in Scottsdale, it just gets a lot better too, I think, from what I heard. Yeah. And when you decided finally that it was Thai, I mean, I think there were a lot of pressures. It was just coming off of COVID. There were staffing issues, all kinds of things going on. You just couldn’t get away though,
because as soon as I turned around, I found that you were doing like, you were doing private, kind of like catering, but yeah, catering and instructions and such. Yes. So well, after, yes. After I shut down Sine, I was contacted to do personal chefs. So whether it be a dinner for eight or dinner for 10, a three course meals, or even as a Christmas gift, a cooking class as a Christmas gift, a group of six. So yeah, so I’ve done that, dabbled in that. And in my spare time, before I had a spare time, I was traveling. So right after I closed Sine, I took trips. The first one was just driving up coast of Highway 1, a beautiful drive. And yeah, with my husband and we drove all the way up to Washington and came back. So just took time out to just be, just to relax and see the beautiful sceneries that USA has to offer. So when I travel, it’s not just abroad. Yeah. Did you have trouble with that? I mean, when your mind is always so focused, I mean, because when you’re in a restaurant, you’re there
24 seven, whether it’s open or not. And whether you’re there or not, did you have trouble sort of clearing your mind of that? Or was it, did you have to practice how to be like, sort of not crazy? Did I have to practice? No. No, it came right. I’d be like, no, I closed the doors out of sight, out of mind, move on.
It was just so crazy at the restaurant, right? It was so much information on my mind all the time. So that by the time I closed and took this trip, it was really meant to be for me to regain my sanity, my consciousness.
And just enjoy life. Yeah. Well, when you were open, oh, go ahead. Sorry. But then after maybe six months, then I started like, okay, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? That’s when I kicked in. There’s something about that mentality that it’s almost, I want to say it’s an addiction, but there’s certainly like this rush that it’s once you’ve replaced it, it’s hard. You can’t go from that to nothing. You can’t go cold turkey on that. Exactly. And it is in my blood that if I have a healthier physical strength, um, I might’ve opened another one, but every time I see a police sign or for sale sign on the building, my husband would say, look away, look away. Nothing to see here. Just keep moving. Yeah. We’re in our interview with a chef D formerly of Sinai Thai, kind of talking about her, uh, her history, her past, how she got to Tucson and what led her to ultimately decide to move on from the brick and mortar restaurant business. But she has a new venture. And we’re going to talk
about that in just a moment. But first I want to remind you that you’re listening to life along the street car and downtown radio 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtown radio dot or
Welcome back. Let’s get into the second half of that interview with chef D talking about, uh, first half was her history with, uh, the food world and how she ended up in Tucson. And now we’re going to find out what’s the next chapter for the chef. I found out this new venture you’re doing. And I thought, what a perfect combination of skill sets and, and, uh, and, you know, public need, like all these things came together with what your current endeavor is. And I thought I have to share that. So tell us a little about what you’re doing now. Yes. Thank you. So, um, with the travel that I did, besides driving along the coast, I actually, um, spend 10 days in Japan and taste all those delicious food, um, took all the subways and all the plane. Uh, and it was just an amazing trip. And then I went on a cruise with my girlfriend to, uh, starting out in Italy and ended up in Athens. Um, so that was April, uh, Japan was March. And then, um, I just went on Alaska cruise, um, in September and I’m
thinking I can do this. I can do travel business because I’ve been to a lot of places. I know how to travel and I know food. Um, I decided, and, and this, I curated culinary tour to Thailand. However, the concept did not just originated right now. I’ve talked to, I’ve talked of this since 2019 at the restaurant with, um, a few of my wonderful clients who asked if I would ever do that. And I said, sure I would. And then COVID came. So we never did any trips. Um, so I, I decided, you know what, this is what I’m going to do. I love travel so much. It’s so fun. It can be fun when planned properly and curate properly. It could be a blast. And it’s one that once you get there, you don’t have to think about a worry about what are we going to do next because it’s already well planned. So this trip that I’m curating, uh, it will be a 10 days total leaving on February 22nd to arrive in Bangkok on the 23rd. And we’ll spend a couple of days in Bangkok, sightseeing, tasting all delicious food, uh, visiting,
you know, Michelin star restaurants, or just, you know, there’s a, um, street food that we see Michelin mentioned Michelin star. So, yeah. So we’ll just go and walk around and taste that food. So there’s street, there’s street food that has, has the, the, the backing of the Michelin rating system. Yes. Wow. That’s pretty impressive. Incredible. So incredible and deservedly. So, um, cause I, when I went to Thailand last year, uh, my sister and I did just that. We just went, okay, this is, this restaurant is known for their duck. They got Michelin star five years in a row for their duck noodles. And, and, um, and it’s a hole in the wall. It’s not a, uh, a white table linen, you know, so that made it even more fun because you could just be and relax and you get to taste delicious food. Yeah. As soon as you mentioned that Michelin rating, I immediately think of just being uncomfortable because it’s, it’s at a level beyond me, but I can relate to a hole in the wall. That’s my level. That’s my
level of class right there. So I know when you, when you were running Sine, you, you actually received an award from, uh, being a Thai, an ambassador of the Thai culture, didn’t you? Yes. I was honored with the, um, Thai select awards by the Thai ministry of commerce, um, in 2017, just six months after I opened. And that was because you were, you were bringing an authentic Thai experience and relating the culture, uh, to, uh, to a very wide audience here in Tucson. Yes. So now you’re kind of doing the opposite. You’re taking a bunch of us American Yahoo’s back to, are they taking the award back? Like, Hey, Hey, Hey, no, this was supposed to go one way. Don’t bring those, those crazy people back here. No, that’s the, that’s the purpose, right? To not just introduce the food and the culture here in the U S it’s also, and by doing so would in turn invite people to want to go and visit Thailand because yes, our, our revenue is, is mainly tourism. Okay. So, yeah. So, all right. So even us Yahoo’s
you, you, you, uh, you want us there and that’s good. And I know this trip is centered around Thailand, but you mentioned you’ve traveled other places. Do you have plans for doing kind of a culinary experience and other, other cuisines or other parts of the world? Oh, I sure do. So, um, well, and so after this Thailand trip, I figured, you know what I already flew all the way out there and mind you, it’s a very long flight, but well worth it. Okay. So don’t be discouraged. Do you care? Do you curate the airplane food too? So that the international flights, um, I can help book flights or many people have, um, award rewards points that they want to use. Oh, I was just thinking about that. I was just thinking about the meal on the plane. If, if that comes from you, if that’s part of your tour, you can get upscale meal. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,
that, that I packed my own like sticky rice and beef jerky in case I can’t stand the airplane. So you’re, you’re, I’m sorry, I cut you off. You’re, you’re going to be in, you’re going to be in Thailand. You’re going to take the flight over since you’re there. You were going to do something else. Yes. So there is a river cruise on the Mekong river starting out in Vietnam and finish in Cambodia for another seven nights. So I figured once I’m there, might as well do all that. And then I can get the Asian, you know, taste the food from Vietnam along the way up to Cambodia. I have limited experience with Vietnamese food from what we know here, like the fur, right in America, in Tucson, but I’ve never tasted Cambodian food. So that will be my first experience. This sounds so exciting, not just for, for people. I mean, this is exciting for you. I mean, you’re learning new stuff and then you get to translate that and share that with us. I think that’s, I mean, that’s just a really, really fun kind
of a post -career career that you’re putting together here. Yes. Oh, I, I am having a lot of fun. You’re like, I don’t care if anybody shows up or not, I’m going. So that’s, that’s all that matters. Don’t have fun with me. If, so people are, I mean, I’m assuming you’re still taking, you still have spots available or you’ve, are you filled up for February or you still have spots? We still have spots. So it’s, it’s going to be a small group. I limited to 14 and, but with my husband and I, so that’s, I’m two of the 14. So, you know, there are 12 spots and a couple of couples of our friends are coming along. So I think we have half of the group already filled. So if you’re interested, please just email me at info at Sunday, travel .com. So I continue with the name. So they travel versus I love it. I love it. And then are you, are you posting, are you like doing anything? Are you on Facebook, Instagram? Can people follow you? So I will, I will do that this week. I’ve just been so overwhelmed.
So in, in between all the travels and between all the personal chef, I also do real estate. I don’t know. I used to do real estate when I was up in Scottsdale for 10 years. I remember you telling me that. Yeah. I just, I’m just trying to think of, you know, you, you get, get to a point where you’re like, I need a break from my business. And you’re like, okay, to replace that one business, I need three.
They’re all the ones that I really, really passionate about. I, I enjoy to find, help buyers to find home in their beautiful homes. And they see their beautiful smiles when they settled in and, you know, helping sellers to sell their home. And they’re like, oh, thank you for all your help. And that is so satisfying for me. And with travel, you know, you get to have fun too. Right. I just, yeah, I just love, I love where like your, all of these passions are converging. And, and, and I, I mean, I, I’ve known you through the, the culinary world, a little bit stuff through downtown, but we’re not like close friends, but I, but what I’ve seen of you is that one thing that struck me from the very first moment was that you were of that giving an educational experience. Like you, you, it’s so rewarding to you to see other people learn and enjoy something that they didn’t know about before they met you. Yes. I truly enjoy that. Thank you.
Yeah. And then people can find you all for all, if they have questions about any of this stuff, they can find you on info at sunaytravel .com or do you have, do you want them to go? Okay. All right. Well, I can be found there or on my Instagram. I don’t know how to let people know my, I think people already following me on Instagram. Well, we’ll, we’ll link to it. What is it? Is it, what’s the name of your, is it Sunay travel or is it chef D? So that’s what I want to know. Can you tell? All right. Well, this is a, this is a first for me, but yes, I will, I will find your Instagram and I will link you to your own Instagram. That’s awesome. So do not call D for social media consulting, but if you need to get a really good culinary experience, I guess here locally, or you know, if you’ve got the time and ability to travel, I think, you know, being a part of her entourage as she’s traipsing through Thailand would be a, not a bad way to spend a few a week or so of your time. Yeah. Yeah. Contact
me, reach me. I think it’s the Instagram is Sunay travel. Okay. Well, we’ll find out. We’ll find out and we’ll connect. We’ll share it on our site and then we’ll, we’ll let you know what it is. And I have a surprise announcement. Breaking news. Hold on. I got to get the breaking news alert out. Breaking news.
Save the date. November 11th. Sunay pop -up is coming. Save the date. Where?
I think I can say it. Motto Sonora brewery. All right. I’m excited for that. That’s just right around the corner. Yes. All right. Well, that, that, that was news. I was not even expecting. So this is fantastic. And we’ll, we’ll share all this stuff from our Facebook page. So people can track you down and find you, but chef D I’m so glad that you are still connecting us as you have for, for, I guess, decades at this point to your, your Thai culinary culture and now expanding it even further. So thank you so much for all you’re doing. And I’m looking forward to getting caught up, maybe seeing you at your pop -up here on the, on the 11th. Yeah, it is. It’s been my pleasure and I am really, really grateful for all the support that I’ve received from you, Tom, from downtown Tucson partnership, from all of my wonderful customers. You welcome me from day one and made me feel like I’m a part of the family, Tucson family from day one. So thank you very much. Well, she has been a part of the fabric
from day one, but that’s been more because she just ingratiated herself, just, just jumped right in and supported the community and just delivered fabulous food, which when you do that, you’re always one of my favorite people in the world. My name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to life along the streetcar and downtown radio. We’re on 99 .1 FM, and you can catch us streaming at downtownradio .org. You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio.
Well, thank you to chef D for regaling us of all these tales and look forward to her, her next ventures. And I thank you to
you for always tuning in and listening to these fabulous stories. Stay tuned. We’ve got Ted Preselski with words and work coming up next. And as always, if you’ve got a topic for us to cover, hit us up on Instagram or Facebook, or email us at contact at lifealongthestreetcar .org. We’re going to wrap up today with a little Rockapella and where in the world is Carmen San Diego? My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.