Kristen and I met on a food truck job for Austin SXSW 2012. We quickly realized we were attending the same culinary school, and although immediately smitten, it was not until I had her cooking that I knew she was the one. You could say it was Love at first bite!
Food brought us together. We would cook together nightly, with a bottle of wine and John Legend to accompany us. It was during these dinners that I shared my passion for Thai food and my desire to open a Thai inspired food truck. Two years earlier I had traveled to Thailand during my second and final deployment to Fallujah, Iraq. I was overwhelmed by the amazing culture, people, and of course, the food.
In true Kristen fashion, she surprised me with a Thai Street Food cookbook. This became my bible, and unbeknownst to her, she had just sealed her fate to be my partner in culinary crime. Together we created what would become Pretty Thai®.
Fresh out of culinary school, we opened our food truck in January of 2013. Within 6-months we were contacted by the Cooking Channel to be featured on their 5th Season of Eat Street. People could see (and taste) the passion we had for food, and the creative way in which we made Thai flavors and ingredients approachable to everyone. It was during this early stage of our business that we first had the idea to bottle the sauces and spices used for our recipes.
Our customers continually asked how they could get our sauces and spices. We did a bit of market research and realized there were ZERO chef driven, clean Thai condiments on the shelves of the stores we shopped. Thinking it would be easy to bottle our products and sell them into retail, we made it our personal mission to create a truly chef natural product, fueled by our love and respect for food, and our unwavering distaste for fake. Our products had to be focused on quality, with simple, authentic ingredients, and BIG flavor.
Our journey from food truck to bottle, from Farmer's Market to retail shelves took many twists and turns. From a year stint in San Antonio on the food truck, to 9-months in Southern California in which we officially began to sell our products in the Farmer's Markets in Murrieta and Temecula, we never wavered on our commitment to quality. Missing Austin and looking to build on what we started three years earlier, we returned to the food truck in late 2015.
It didn't take long to get noticed. In January of 2016, while serving at the Lakeline Farmer's Market in N. Austin, we were discovered by Central Market. Within 6-months we were launching our products in both Austin locations, as well as in a few smaller retailers in Austin. By January of 2017 we had launched statewide into every Central Market. We finally thought the hard work was paying off, and then life threw its hardest punch imaginable.
On April 1st of 2017 we welcomed our first child, a son, Palmer Nicklaus to the world. During our pregnancy we learned of Palmer's CHD and Heterotaxy Syndrome diagnosis. Months of worry and pediatric cardiology visits culminated in our beautiful baby boy's birth. Reality hit us immediately when we learned of two additional heart defects not discovered in utero. Within 6-days we were prepared for the worst, only to be faced with the unimaginable, the decision to let our son pass. We chose to fight!
We eventually lost the battle and with it our son, but through the most difficult experience of our lives, we gained a new perspective and a concrete resilience. We chose to honor Palmer's memory by forging ahead and making Pretty Thai® the success we envisioned it to be on our food truck four years earlier. We created the Palmer Nicklaus Foundation, a 501(c)(3), and we placed our teddy bear logo on every bottle in honor of our Palmey Bear. Selfishly we hope to see our son's name across this great country on the shelves of every retail store and in the kitchen of every American.
We're real people with a real passion. The Passion is the Promise, and we always promise to be transparent and true to our core principles of Quality, Flavor, and Versatility. We hope to bring people together through food the way food brought Kristen and I together. We bring you Pretty Thai, often times authentic, unapologetic on flavor, and 100% family. Do Us A Flavor, Cook With Us!
– Kristen & Robert (& Alivia Mae) Strong