Alumnus Kris Yenbamroong: Telling Stories Through Food

Kris Yenbambroong (’94), chef and owner of LA’s Night + Market restaurants (Photo by David Kitz)

Kris Yenbamroong (’94) is the chef and owner of Night + Market restaurants in Los Angeles. Named Food and Wine’s Best New Chef in 2016, and a three-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist, Yenbamroong has been featured by outlets such as Food & Wine, VOGUE, Los Angeles Times, and Bon Appétit.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yenbamroong has no formal culinary training, but he grew up in the restaurant his family owned, Talesai, which opened the year he was born. In spite of those culinary beginnings, he originally had no intention of taking over the family business.

After graduating high school, Yenambroong moved to New York City to attend film school at NYU, and he spent a few years working in fashion photography. Although his family wanted him to come home to take over the operation of Talesai, he was hesitant to accept the role if he could not inflect the restaurant with his own personal identity.

“I never wanted to inherit the restaurant if I couldn’t add my own twist,” he said. “I only took over Talesai once I established what the twist would be.”

So after eight years living in New York City, Yenambroong returned to Los Angeles to take the helm of Talesai and eventually evolved the restaurant into Night + Market.

Night + Market now consists of three restaurants in West Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Venice that specialize in Thai drinking food, which Yenbamroong describes as “boldly-seasoned, spicy, flavorful Thai food to pair with natural wines.” Through his restaurants, Yenbamroong aims to tell the story of Thai food and his own life experiences, creating spaces where diners can enjoy delicious and authentic Thai food that “facilitates drinking and fun-having amongst friends,” he said.

Yenbamroong credits his outlook to his years at UCLA Lab School, noting that the school “taught [him] the importance of telling stories.” He looks back on those years fondly, remembering lessons that covered diverse topics ranging from rice cultivation, to Hopi Indian mud hut architecture, to doughnut making.

Looking to the future, he said, he is happy with his three restaurants for now. But, he added, “I do want to continue to tell the story of Thai food and being an Asian-American.”

Enjoy a taste of Yenambroong’s cooking at any of his three outposts of Night + Market (WeHo, Song, and the newly opened Sahm), or bring his food into your own kitchen with his cookbook Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends, released in 2017.