Bangkok Gardens

All happy families are alike…

Home and family mean a lot to John Pham, owner and Chef of Bangkok gardens.  He learned his love of cooking at his grandmother’s elbow in Los Angeles, and he leads his business with passion and heart, treating his staff like a real family; tensions, disagreements and all.  Sometimes on a busy lunch you can hear John’s children playing upstairs of the dining room.

John Pham (owner of Bangkok Gardens) cracking an egg in a wok

Working in a restaurant means being part of a family, albeit usually a slightly dysfunctional one.

John Pham came to the United States a five year old Vietnamese refugee in 1975. In California, Logan and Orletta Setzer helped John and his family assimilate to life in the Unites States and when it came time for college, Logan encouraged John to attend his alma mater: MU. When John moved to Columbia he had nothing more than a mattress tied to the roof of his car and a trunk full of clothes. Needing a way to pay the rent, he got a job at Bangkok Gardens on Ninth street.

I was a freshman in college, looking for a job. it was raining and I went in to get three easy dishes…There was only one other customer in the restaurant and it took an hour to get my order. And there were only two people in the restaurant. And I was like OMG, one hour for three entrees? That’s not acceptable. They’re not going to make it. So I poked my head back there and said, “Do you need help?”

Three years later he did just about the most American thing possible; he dropped out of school and bought the business.

“I’m more American than most Americans. I took my citizenship test at 18 and passed with flying colors. I love ice cream, hot dogs and baseball!”

A menu crafted around the two words, fresh and flavorful

In Bangkok Gardens, John strives to create a fresh and flavorful Thai experience carefully tailored specifically to the American midwestern palate. By painstakingly reimagining each traditional dish, owner John Pham creates a one of a kind flavor fusion experience, where the diner can choose their level of spice for each dish.

Green, yellow, red peppers laid out on table

The result is unique as any family.

John and Kyle with dishes in kitchen window giving peace signs


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