Chef of Pok Pok reveals inspiration behind food, name

Andy Ricker first visited Thailand in the 80s

This Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 photo shows Thai food impresario Andy Ricker posing for a photo at his restaurant in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. A master of Thai cuisine best known for his Pok Pok eateries, Ricker is opening two Thai restaurants in the city’s Chinatown, finally expanding his eight Pok Pok restaurants, lounges and wing shops beyond Portland, Ore., and New York City. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The chef and owner behind Pok Pok, a Portland staple, was the featured chef on CBS Saturday Morning.

Andy Ricker opened his first Pok Pok in Portland before expanding to New York and California.

Ricker told CBS Saturday Morning how his interest in Thai food started.

Pok Pok is one of the first food carts to open in PDX. Food carts will rotate in the airport every 6 months, Oct. 10, 2014 (Port of Portland)
Pok Pok is one of the first food carts to open in PDX. Food carts will rotate in the airport every 6 months, Oct. 10, 2014 (Port of Portland)

“The first time I went was in the 80s, the people were very friendly, the food was fantastic,” Ricker said. “It took another trip going back in the early 90s where I had a good friend I grew up with and he and his wife introduced me to the local Northern Thai food, which kind of led me on this journey to start with.”

Ricker went on to say that the food of Northern Thailand “totally blindsided” him as it was unlike any other food he had tried before — calling it a “revelation.”

The now award-winning chef also revealed the inspiration behind the name “Pok Pok”

According to Ricker, it’s the sound the pestle makes when hitting the mortar– utensils that are at the center of the Thai kitchen.

“You can’t have any kind of regional Thai food without some form of a mortar and pestle,” Ricker said.

While Ricker is well-known for his tasty Thai food, he didn’t start making Thai food to improve it because according to him, the food in Thailand was “brilliant.”

“To be respectful of that cuisine, the best way that I could think of doing it was try to represent it as clearly and as purely as I could,” Ricker said.