The entrepreneurial journey of the couple behind Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine, one of the best restaurants in Malibu, began with a humble dream of owning a restaurant in America. “In our country, we have big families and you have to help your mom cook,” Sawai Theprian shared. “You’re never too young to help because everyone in the family has to help.” Sawai, nestled among nine siblings, reminisced about her early years. “As kids, my husband and I cooked with our moms and that’s where our passion for cooking started,” she revealed.
In 2000, Sawai and her partner, Nikorn Sriwichailumpan, proudly took over Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine, fast becoming a name on the list of Malibu's Top Restaurants. Before her American adventure, Sawai had her small food stall in Thailand. In pursuit of her dream, she migrated in 1995 and soon found herself at Noodle World in Southern California. Here, she bonded with chef Nikorn Sriwichailumpan, who had moved to the US in 1993. Their shared profession led to a deeper bond and eventual marriage.
Hoping to find a better opportunity, the duo moved to Boston. “When we got there, we found out there were no chances of owning a restaurant,” she said. “Also, Boston was too cold.”
Considering other options, they returned to California. Then, a call from a friend hinted at better prospects in Florida. “She said if I wanted to own a restaurant, I should come to Florida,” Theprian shared. “She said it would be easier to own a restaurant there than in California.” Unfortunately, their 1998 Florida venture met a dead end. A deal they hoped for collapsed, leading to a $10,000 loss. “When we got there, they didn’t do anything,” Sawai recounted. “We lost $10,000 and the owner kept the restaurant. Florida was too humid and too hot.”
Fate led them back to California, where they chanced upon a job ad in Malibu. “Twenty years ago, I didn’t even know where Malibu was,” Sawai said. By 1999, they were heading the kitchen of Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine. Recognizing their dedication, the initial owner sold the restaurant to them. “Because we worked so hard, he let us own the restaurant,” she said.
With their perseverance, by 2000, they were serving some of the best food in Malibu at Cholada.
“I’m very proud when someone asks me where I own my restaurant and I say Malibu,” Sawai beamed. While Nikorn ensures perfection in the kitchen, Sawai caters to the patrons. “If my husband is not very, very sick, he’s going to be here every day,” she emphasized.
Their culinary creations often bring memories their memories of Thailand to the forefront. “When the people love our food, that is the best reward,” Sawai shared. Their predecessor, impressed by their accomplishments, drops by occasionally complimenting them on the ever expanding menu.
Their commitment reflects in every dish, with ingredients sourced from local Asian markets. While Sawai has tailored the menu for American tastes, she hasn't compromised on authenticity. Among her favorites are the curry dishes.
Sawai's family, including their daughters and a recently immigrated niece, pitch in at the restaurant. Despite her hectic schedule, she's honing her English skills. “I never stop learning,” she concluded, embodying the spirit of their dream realized.
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