Chef and Filmmaker Brings His Traveling Thai Food Pop-Up to Burlington | Food + Drink Events | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Chef and Filmmaker Brings His Traveling Thai Food Pop-Up to Burlington


Published June 30, 2023 at 10:07 a.m.

Pranom Pop-Up pad see ew, or stir-fried rice noodles - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Pranom Pop-Up pad see ew, or stir-fried rice noodles
For the past decade, Dream Kasestatad has traveled from his home in Austin, Texas, around the United States, averaging about 60 stops per year with Pranom Pop-Up, his roving Thai food kitchen.

After well over 420,000 miles of crisscrossing the country, from Seattle, Wash., to Tucson, Ariz., to Brooklyn, Kasestatad will finally make an inaugural visit to Vermont.

The Thai-born chef, whose food business supports his work as a filmmaker and actor, will cook and serve three meals at Switchback Brewing in Burlington, Monday, July 3, through Wednesday, July 5.

"I go to New York often," Kasestatad, 44, said during an interview on Thursday while driving to cook in Bristol, Pa. "Burlington was just one of those places I hadn't gone. I wanted to, but I always thought, Man, that's really far."

In each city, Kasestatad finds a host site — most often a brewery. When the chef arrives in his Kia Soul stuffed with burners, cookware and propane tanks, he finds the best local Asian market, buys what looks freshest and plans one dish daily in both vegan and chicken versions. All cost $15.

Over his three-day visit to Burlington, Kasestatad said he'll definitely cook a curry, such as panang red curry made with coconut milk, Thai basil, lemongrass, Makrut lime leaves, Thai red chiles, fresh vegetables and choice of protein served over rice noodles.
Chef Dream Kasestatad in Seattle in 2022 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Chef Dream Kasestatad in Seattle in 2022
For another meal, Kasestatad will likely do a signature noodle dish, such as pad see ew, for which he will stir-fry wide rice noodles with mushroom soy, eggs, bean sprouts, veggies and choice of protein. He always garnishes dishes with crispy garlic or onion and loads of fresh herbs. "I'm a big texture and visual person," Kasestatad said.

The meals are first come, first served and often sell out, Kasestatad said. "I do everything myself," he said.

Kasestatad's family moved from Bangkok, Thailand, to Lubbock, Texas, when he was two years old, and he grew up in the family's restaurants. "I was literally bathed in the restaurant sink as a toddler," he said. He started cooking in the kitchens when he was about 11. "There were no child labor laws in my family," he joked.

Restaurants paid the bills, but Kasestatad observed the toll it took on family members. "We didn't have a normal life," he said. "They literally worked until they physically couldn't work any more."

As a young man, he had no interest in pursuing a culinary career. "I hated restaurants," he said. "I wanted to run away from it."

Kasestatad was living in Los Angeles waiting tables to support his burgeoning film career when the recession hit. He had just turned 30. "I lost my job. I had my car stolen. My girlfriend broke up with me," he said. To support himself, Kasestatad started making pad Thai in his apartment and delivering orders all around Los Angeles by bike.

In 2013, LA Weekly featured the pop-up he had named Pranom after his grandmother, who taught him to cook. Lines for his daily dishes snaked around the block, he said.

"It took on a life of its own," he said. "I guess cooking is in my DNA."

Kasestatad continues to work on film projects, including a semi-autobiographic 2019 movie titled The Noodle Man, which he directed, produced and acted in. He is currently pitching a food-related reality show concept.

"I go on the road to raise money to make my movies," he said. But, Kasestatad acknowledged that cooking is also "my calling, in a sense."

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