The Chef: Kris Yembaroong
Warning: This culinary champ’s quotes are NSFW, as is his fare. (Not. Suitable. For. Wussies.)
After holding a four-year apprenticeship with photog Richard Kern, Kris Yembamroong realized that “New York needed another dude shooting naked chicks like it needed more models or rats.” So, he ditched the lens for a wok, and went back to his best coast roots to take over his family’s 25-year-old Thai restaurant. The space next door opened up, and not wanting new neighbors, he quickly “cock-blocked” an Irish pub from moving in by signing a fresh lease. The empty room has since morphed into “a blank slate with zero expectation, a casual idea bordering on an experiment,” he explains. A year and a half later, Night + Market has earned the young chef a James Beard nomination, glowing reviews from Jonathan Gold, and visits from both David Chang and René Redzepi (basically, it’s a BFD in the foodie world). But don’t be fooled, it hasn’t been all sweet coconut rice. “At the heart of it all, it’s just me cooking for my customers in a tiny room. I’m the one at the fish market early in the morning, in line at the bodega buying the bread I use for my ice-cream sandwiches, and staying up until 3 a.m. making pork rinds because my customers love ‘em,” Yembamroong says.
The snarky chef’s schooling may have come from “not having a babysitter,” and consequently spending many a late night in the commercial kitchen munching on staff meals — Cordon Bleu, schmordon goo, right? “Formal training gives you technique, which is great, but it can never give you a palate. That’s why seasoning is one of the toughest things to learn,” he says. And eccentric flavors are definitely never lacking at the eatery (think super-duper spicy Moo Sadoon, which means "startled pig," with basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, and bird-eye chile). Oh, and Yembamroong happens to be looking for a solid partner for N+M 2.0, should you feel so inclined!
Hair by Jacquie Fetch, makeup by Mayera Abeita and Ali Magee.