Sommay Jaijong, known to everyone as May (sometimes pronounced Mai), dreamed of becoming a restaurant owner since the early age of 12. Though the meaning of her name indicates proficiency in marketing, May was passionate only about cooking, feeling a friendly bond and inquisitive awareness to anything edible. Ironically, to the residents of May's hometown, virtually everything was edible. The villagers in Northeastern Thailand worked hard to make ends meet and consumed whatever was available.
At age 14, May quit school to lend a hand at home. With the help of her siblings May harvested and sold vegetables, labored in the rice field, and looked after the water buffalos. While her mother was unable to afford a wooden pushcart, the work was arduous and time-consuming and May spent her days solely outdoors, away from the kitchen. She was never given the opportunity to help prepare meals, being the designated frog catcher for their evening dinner; however, May satisfied her culinary aspiration through daydreams of serving her own dishes to wealthy Bangkokers.
Consequently, it took only a year for the first phase of her plans to transpire, as her aunt telephoned the Jaijong residence and requested May's assistance at her vegetarian restaurant in Bangkok. Overwhelmed by her good fortune, May purchased her first train ticket. The news swept through her village like wildfire and the residents were equally delighted at the prospect of one of their own basking in a glorious future. Indeed, May found herself anxiously anticipating the wonders of a trendy, luxurious urban life, as she headed, on her own, for the Siamese capital.
Adversely, May encountered loud, busy streets, air pollution, and apathetic residents. Unable to speak English and afraid of foreigners, she spent her first year at the restaurant deliberately out of sight, washing dishes. Over time, however, May became a server, gradually developing the confidence to practice English, and learned to cook the menu's recipes at "Vegetarian Restaurant."
Despite the fact that May dished up vegetarian cuisine, she continued eating animal products at nearly every meal, so as to avoid her aunt's flavourless cooking. Yet, by age 19, May was plagued with fatigue and indigestion. Reluctantly, May considered her uncle's suggestion of a meatless diet, under the condition that she could not only tolerate, but actually enjoy, the taste of vegetarian food.
And so the innovation of May Kaidee's recipes began. May borrowed and modified her mother's non-vegetarian meals and favorite Thai dishes, eliminated the animal ingredients, and added her own flavours. Experimenting with her aunt's menu, she added more savor and zest from Thai herbs and spices and devised her own sauces and pastes. Finally, May gained opinions and suggestions by persuading others to taste her creations, then accordingly perfected each dish.
Regularly requested as her friends' and family's personal chef, May's popularity escalated as she developed her own menu. In a matter of weeks, May dropped a significant amount of weight and overcame years of fatigue. Her self-confidence and enthusiasm about vegetarian cooking magnified as May found herself alive with an abundance of energy and endurance. Additionally, her transformation stunned and inspired others, many of whom assumed a vegetarian diet and equally reaped positive results. Convinced of the benefits of May's cuisine and impressed by her inherent ability to enhance what many had already considered appetizing dishes, May was encumbered with entreaties to open her own restaurant.
Today, twenty years later, May is recognized in Thailand as a successful entrepreneur, owning vegetarian restaurants and cooking schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Her business name, May Kaidee, was christened after the meaning of her first name, indicating aptitude in business and marketing, and essentially translating to, "May sells well." Indeed, as May continues to establish herself professionally, she invites relatives and friends from her hometown to work in her Bangkok restaurants, extending, as her aunt did, the opportunity to acquire a more comfortable or alternative life.
Internationally, May has instructed Thai restaurant staff members throughout Europe and Asia and is frequently requested to lecture at retreats, health seminars, and annual food events worldwide. In Russia, May has tutored master chefs from five-star hotels in St. Petersburg, and is renowned in Moscow for her sensational Thai vegetarian cooking film, translated into Russian. Additionally, May has spent time in England sharing her culinary secrets and in Japan instructing health retreats on organic farms. By 2002, May Kaidee's was chosen as a top restaurant by "Metro Magazine" in Sweden and nominated for the International Award for Tourist Hotel and Catering Industry by the Spanish magazine, "Mercado Mundial". What's more, May has made television appearances in Thailand, Germany, France, and China, and was personally selected by His Royal Highness Prince Phillippe of Belgium as the best chef in Thailand.
As May's cooking is fit for a prince, it's no wonder that May Kaidee's Vegetarian Restaurants can be found in travel guides such as Lonely Planet, Groovy Map, Rough Guide, Thomas Cook, Let's Go Thailand! Frommer, and AA KEY Guidebook. Her success story has also been covered by Bangkok Post, Thai Daily Newspaper, Metro Thailand, Come Out Bangkok, and Himatet Farang Magazine.
While her reputation stretches across the globe, May not only bumps into former customers and students during her travels, but continues to extend her following of fans. Indeed, May's restaurants are popular stomping grounds for foreign travellers, in search of trustworthy, nutritious, and appetizing eats. Just one taste of May Kaidee's cuisine causes first-time customers to become faithful "regulars," even for those on a short visit to Thailand. In fact, tourists who have had the May Kaidee experience and make frequent visits to the Land of Smiles often reside at May's guesthouse or base their stay near one of her restaurants.
At present, May's ambition is to share with the world a bit of Thai culture, as well as her heavenly, health-restoring recipes for revitalizing mind, body, and spirit. While not looking after customers in Thailand, May spends time in New York City promoting her signature recipes.