Born in Bangkok, Khun Tommy was the eldest of 12 children, leaving school at just 11 years old to help support his family. Growing up, as well as helping his father in the family restaurant, he held a variety of odd jobs that included being a wheelbarrow maker, boxer, auto mechanic, tennis teacher, drummer, and busboy.
It was while working in the latter position, in Bangkok in his teens, that he began dating an American girl living in Bangkok. She told him about her homeland, and made him promise that one day he would visit her country. The couple later broke up, but his dream of visiting the US was still on his mind.
Several years later in 1972, at the age of 20, he moved to Los Angeles, and, drawing upon his years of experience helping his father, found work at a Thai restaurant called Chandara. At this time, Thai food was little known in America, but was slowly finding a growing and appreciative audience.
“They had never had Thai food before, so it was a great opportunity to show them. I would make a northern Thailand dish and show them on a map what the area looked like – the elephants and the jungle – so they got a visual with the flavours of the food. It was food and tourism at the same time.”
Khun Tommy, now an American citizen, is not surprised at how quickly the food gained popularity.
“People think American food is all hot dogs, hamburgers and pizzas. But actually there is a huge variety in cuisine, it depends on what state you are in.
“Americans love to experiment with all things – they are pioneers. In the late 1970s, they were tired of the old world cuisine in New York – it was getting stale. And Los Angeles and San Francisco were becoming well known for their diverse food, because so many immigrants were moving there. They were introducing herbs and spices that people had never heard of before.”
Media played a large part in helping to change attitudes and spread the word about Thai cuisine, such as when Khun Tommy featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in 1982.
He went on to open his own restaurant in the trendy Los Angeles suburb of West Hollywood, followed by two more branches in New York, serving Thai fusion. Khun Tommy says his style is “Pacific Rim”, a mixture of Eastern and Western cuisine, with Thai influences and ingredients.
In 2004 he decided to close his three restaurants in New York to spend more time with his two daughters, now aged 21 and 24, and his American wife Sandi. These days he mostly spends his time filming and working on his two cooking shows.
Why did he close his restaurants instead of selling them? “Those restaurants were my babies. You can’t just give
them away to someone else”.
He has not ruled out a move back to Thailand eventually, if the right opportunity arose. “Maybe one day if I got bored [in the US], I could open up a restaurant and my daughter could run it.”
For now though, Khun Tommy is content to do what he does best – introducing Thai food to the world.
by Claire Connell: http://www.thephuketnews.com
Repost from 12/30/09
Be sure to view photos at the end of this interview.
Nick Freyer has 19 years of sports and entertainment marketing and management experience. With an honours degree in Sports Marketing & Management from Loughborough University (UK), he has lived in the Asian region for more than 40 years.
Mr. Freyer has abeen associated with IMG since 1995. He is currently Senior Vice President and Head of Asia Tennis, as well as Tournament Director for several professional events.
Mr. Freyer is currently responsible for IMG’s Tennis business in Asia working to develop events throughout the region and supporting the Asian business interests of IMG clients that include Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams.
Prior to working at IMG, Nick spent five years marketing sponsors and organising tennis events in Asia, including the first ATP Tour events in Asia in 1990. He was also the creator and Executive Director for eight years (China/Malaysia) of the IMG owned Mild Seven Outdoor Quest, the richest Adventure Race in the world and in 2002 co-founded the Hainan Discovery Triathlon, the leading triathlon at the time in China.
When New Balance, the Boston based manufacturer of athletic shoes sought to expand their Asian marathon sponsorship presence, Mr. Freyer’s experience helped them secure sponsorships of marathons in Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong, where they remain as sponsor.
Mr. Freyer was intimately involved with the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee (BOBICO) being a point-man for IMG's work as Global Marketing Consultants to BOBICO and was co-creator of the historic 2007 matches between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras which took place in Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Macao.
In 2008 he managed the historic matches in Asia featuring Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, James Blake and John McEnroe and in 2009 he will be Tournament Director for the new ATP World Tour 250 tournament in Malaysia, as well as China's first ATP Champions Tour event, and has organized an historic exhibition match between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
When not thinking tennis, Nick loves to play tennis and ride his bike during the early hours on the crazy roads of Hong Kong and travel to far flung places with his wife, as well as filming underwater life with his favorite subjects being sharks, manta rays, humpback whales and whale sharks.
Welcome Nick, thank you for taking time away from your daunting schedule to chat with us.
Well thanks for asking me. I am excited about this new website.
You spend a great deal of time on the road... Do you pack your racquets as a rule?
Not anymore. The carry on restrictions tend to prohibit this nowadays. Too much hassle. I take my swimming gear and running shoes in my carry on luggage. Two workouts a day on the road.
Some clubs have demo racquets for players to use, does this suit you?
I am very particular about the grips and string tension. I want to play my best when I'm on the court, so I generally don't pursue the game on travel.
What racquet are you playing with lately?
Prince Speedport Black O3. I have four frames.
Yes. I like the Wilson Sensation 17 gauge and it lasts (laughing) about two hours for me.
What about your style of game?
I hit hard with a lot of topspin off both sides and use a one-handed backhand. With my size I should be coming into the net more often but ultimately I like to stay at the baseline.
How often do you get to Bangkok each year?
As often as I can. I love coming to Thailand. Bangkok is a fascinating city. I like the food, the service, and the hospitality as well. Last year (2008) we were there 5 or 6 times setting up the McEnroe-Borg Exhibition. I haven't been through this year but hope to again soon when my schedule slows down a bit.
Where do you prefer to stay?
Conrad for sure. My favorite hotels in Asia.
Given your lengthy background in regional industry promotions and the current burst of professional level events over the past year, it seems that future prospects for tennis jobs (players, support, admin) around Asia has great momentum. Your thoughts...?
Yes indeed. From my perspective this is the most exciting time to date for professional tennis in Asia. Recently some of my colleagues around the world were asking me about this - anticipating some negative news but I tell them it is just the opposite even under the current economic challenges.With Noppowan capturing a rare feat this year at Wimbledon (singles and doubles crown), she and the young Taiwanese boy Tsung are the current number one juniors in the world - it is indeed a promising time. India's number one boy Yuki Bhambri is playing very good tennis. The Taiwanese girls (Hsieh & Chuang) are in the top 20 (doubles – WTA).
As you know both tours (ATP, WTA) come to Asia after the US Open and the tournament draws are strong throughout: Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok, Shanghai, and also for my tournament in Kuala Lumpur. We have many top 20 (ATP) players confirmed (www.malaysianopentennis.com).In October (25) the Agassi/Sampras exhibition will attract a capacity crowd (Macao) (www.venetiantennisshowdown.com).
We have another event with McEnroe and Borg together again this year at the ATP Champions Tour in Chengdu. (www.atpchampionstour.com/chengdu.html) which will include Mats Wilander, Surgei Brugera, Marcelo Rios, and Thomas Enquvist.
Nadal and Tsonga will play in Bangkok, and Rafa is also committed at the ATP Tour 100 event in Beijing along with Djokovic and Roddick. There has not been a better time in Asia for the [evident] growth of tennis.
With the previous question in mind - ambitious endeavors such as 'ATP Tournament Director' would be demanding enough for an individual, yet you are actively involved in four major projects at present: China (3), and Malaysia. Obviously this requires competent middle managers and local support. How do you find quality people to support the mission?
Well, I am quite fortunate that my team has been in place now for 8-9 years with both full time and part time members. Really, we have an amazing team. They have all grown personally and professionally from the experience. And that is what I encourage them to do. The projects we pursue are demanding but they recognize the value of these challenges and how it impacts their self development.
Another important aspect of our work ethic is to have fun together. And we do. We take time to reflect upon our successes and evaluate the results in a more relaxed atmosphere. It is very satisfying when we watch the television productions or read about the positive impact our work has generated.
Overall as a manager I know the importance of sharing credit with the team – taking care of them. They are pushed to perform and they respond amazingly well. Knowing that their efforts are appreciated has far more value than the pay alone. This, I believe explains why the team has remained together over the years – even the part time workers return when we need them. Its a great feeling for me as a leader to know they are dedicated to the team.
I'll never forget what Mark (McCormack-founder IMG) told me some years ago: “Hire people smarter than yourself.” That brief statement has made a very meaningful and lasting impression on me.
Your advice for young people seeking a career in the tennis industry?
Education! Get the knowledge. Learning is an ongoing effort but knowledge comes from experience. Maximize your experience. Try everything. Work hard at what ever you are doing and - come to work prepared.
Your question reminds me that my first job was stringing racquets in a pro shop. I have also been a ball boy, worked in sales and with event operations in various capacities. Eventually I started working with players (ATP, WTA) on contracts and representation. I have also been involved in securing sponsorships for large events both in and out of the tennis industry.
Now as a tournament director, I look forward to the continuing challenges ahead and to working with some very talented and interesting people in the region. It took 15 years to get here, some do it sooner, but looking back over my career that is the kind of advice I would render to young people. Get in and work hard. In my experience, when you give people an opportunity they will go to the end of the world for you.
Any new projects on the horizon for Bangkok?
Nothing confirmed at this time but we are working at it. I am pleased for the growth of tennis in Thailand and especially in Bangkok. There is outstanding support from PTT and many other fine companies. The food is great, the hotels also, and as I mentioned – the community support runs deep. The appreciation for our efforts in Bangkok is noted each time we come and this encourages more projects in the future for professional tennis events there. And I am really pleased for Rafa - that his knees are fit, and with Tsonga back to defend his title - it will be a great week at the Thailand Open.
Nick, its been our pleasure to chat with you. Keep us posted on your activities when you have a moment. All the best in the coming months.
Thank you. I send my best wishes to our tennis friends in The Land of Smiles.