All Hell Breaks Loose: Chef Kyla Phomsavanh Kicked Out of Thairiffic, His Family’s Restaurant

Thairrific, a restaurant which was opened in 2001 by Kyla Phomsavanh’s parents, is now at the center of major drama. On its website, ex-Thairrific Chef Kyla Phomsavanh writes:

For our loyal customers, Chef Kyla (myself) and Family (Original owners that started and built Thairrific 10 years ago) would like to thank you for coming to Thairrific.

However, due to changes internally.

My Family, Wonderful Wait Staff, and my loyal Cooks will no longer be present at Cedars Springs.


Phomsavanh was running the family-owned business until longtime regular customer Daniel Sikora bought the restaurant with his company, Crucial Pickles LLC, in December 2010. Sikora played the role of an investor and handled the marketing side, while Phomsavanh managed and cooked. All was going well until six months after Thairrific moved to its current Cedar Springs location. On May 2,  (what Phomsavanh thought would be) a negotiations meeting turned into a private ousting.

Jump for it.

In late April, Phomsavanh noticed that something wasn’t financially making sense. The move to Cedar Springs was creating a steady stream of customers – more than they ever had at the old location – which meant that the restaurant should’ve also been generating more revenue. Oddly, that wasn’t happening. Phomsavanh decided to confront his business partner Sikora. “I got to the point where I was like, I’m working 82-84 hours a week, I’m putting all this many hours here, so why is there no money because I know we’re generating a lot of money. I’m not accusing you, but I want to start cutting costs. First and foremost, we don’t need an accountant here cutting paychecks. Our POS system manages our employees’ hours already, and we use ADP as our pay roll processing.”

Phomsavanh also noted the fact that Sikora’s accountant was getting paid more than he, a man who says he worked tirelessly to keep customers happy. Since the partnership wasn’t working out, Phomsavanh offered to buy Sikora’s share of Thairrific from him. Ten days later, at a business meeting, Sikora showed up unexpectedly to the negotiations with a lawyer and served the surprised Phomsavanh some legal documents that fired the manager and told him to leave the property that same day. “We had a number of philosophical differences on how business should be run, and I was really just not going to be able to work under the ethics that he wanted to work under,” says Sikora. As to what ethics Sikora is referring to, he chooses not to discuss.

“He brought in a new chef within an hour after terminating me. The new chef, to my surprise, has all my recipes, too, which I’ve never sold or given rights to,” says Phomsavanh, who is now planning to get a catering business up and running. Sikora states that he’s currently “consulting with an actual chef (grad of California Culinary Institute) instead of a self-taught cook who has no formal training [Phomsavanh].”

The abrupt change in management left the Thai restaurant in a pickle. Three kitchen cooks and six of the waitstaff left Thairrific with Phomsavanh. The restaurant was closed for two days. Thairrific hasn’t been open late nights on Friday and Saturday like usual (Sikora says they will open again when they get a liquor license), and they are also now closed on Mondays for six weeks.

“Let’s just say, I don’t want it [Thairrific] now,” says Phomsavanh. “They’re not a war horse like I am.”

Sikora has plans to change Thairrific’s name later this summer so that it is no longer associated with the Phomsavanh family.

38 comments on “All Hell Breaks Loose: Chef Kyla Phomsavanh Kicked Out of Thairiffic, His Family’s Restaurant

  1. As we know, all of the best Thai chefs–not just in the US, but in Thailand, too–are products of cooking schools in California. Utter foolishness to think that one could learn to cook Thai food in any other way.

  2. Indeed, Scott. When I’m in Thailand visiting street food vendors I make a point of finding out what culinary school education they have and then don’t patronize them if they’re >snicker, scoff< "self-taught". What kind of cuisine does that?

  3. So another great Thai restaurant becomes another cookie cutter chain Thai restaurant.. Sorry to hear it.

  4. Really, Scott, really? There are hundreds of different ways of making Thai food, just like there are hundreds of different ways of making Italian food, or French food.

    And there ARE Thai culinary schools in Thailand. Duh.

  5. @Scott. “Utter foolishness to think that one could learn to cook Thai food in any other way.” Tell that to Kyla’s mom. They are all her recipes. As far as official schooling … there are many idiots with MBAs.

    By the way, here is the official definition of a chef:

    chef
    [shef]
    noun
    1.
    the chief cook, especially in a restaurant or hotel, usually responsible for planning menus, ordering foodstuffs, overseeing food preparation, and supervising the kitchen staff.
    2.
    any cook.

  6. Apparently Scott’s sarcasm went way over most of your moronic heads. Sad to say I’m not shocked by the utter cluelessness of:

    MDallas;
    Divanora; and,
    Daniel.

  7. No one has bothered to explain why the founding family agreed to sell out to Sikora. Another perfect example of VERY poor reporting.

  8. I must say I loved the food at Thairidix at the old location. I lived nearby and loved it. I talked about going to the Cedar Springs location a few times but never made it. The best part of that restaurant was the people. Kind. Good. People. So sorry that mean self-centered people do mean things to kind, good people. May karma pay you back. Good luck to my friends from Thairiffic.

  9. Kyla Phomsavanh is the nicest, humblest, most accommodating guy you could ever hope to meet.

  10. Food was great but I also went there for Kyla, staff and knowing thairrific was run and owned by the original family. Not likely to return

  11. I had been going to Kyla’s place since 2002 and never had a bad experience. The second time I walked into the restaurant I was greeted BY NAME! Impressive. When the restaurant moved to its current location we were all very sad for ourselves, but happy for Kyla and his family. Of course we went to the new location to support our friends. Kyla, let us know where you end up and we will be there. Miss you.

  12. The food definitely tastes different (NOTin a good way) and this explains it. I used to LOVE the food! It’s sad because I’ve met the Chef and both he and the staff there were impeccable. The place is definitely not what it used to be.

    Sadly, I will NOT be returning and will urge my friends and family to do the same. I also wish Chef Phomsavanh the best in his new ventures.

  13. THE REPORTER FAILED TO MENTION THAT THE COOK DID NOT OWN ANY EQUITY IN THE COMPANY, AND THAT HIS PARENTS SOLD THE COMPANY TO THE NEW OWNER A LONG TIME AGO. THAIRIFFIC IS GREAT THANKS TO THE OWNER AND MANAGEMENT!! WE WILL BE BACK SOON!!!!!!

    I THINK MAYBE WE HAVE A DISGRUNTLED SILVER SPOON COOK!!!!!!

  14. Thank you for creating that support page for the family, Christina. I am so sad that my favorite Thai restaurant is no more. The old location is literally two minutes from home. Sad. Very sad.

    Daniel Sikora should be ashamed of himself, but I doubt he has the capacity for shame. The ethics that he could not work under were “ethics of any kind,” obviously. Yet another shiftless sociopath has ruined something good for the rest of us.

  15. I used to eat at Thairiffic twice a week and order delivery for the office as well. Once i found out the CHEF was gone they’ll never get another dollar of my money.

    Best bet, they will be gone in 6 months. I really hope Kyla reconsiders opening another restaurant – the food was the best Thai in town.

  16. There is always a much bigger story behind the scenes. The food is still awesome and the staff is very accommodating so the drama isn’t necessary.

  17. I may be wrong here but a business does not turn a profit until all expenses are paid and that includes a build out investment as well. And I don’t know how many people are familiar with Hungdingers, the establishment that had previously occupied the Cedar Springs location, so let me just say the build out was extensive which inturn adds up to expensive. I am sure not a dime of that money came from “Chef” Kyla because truth of the matter is “Chef Kyla” himself with all his savy business sense took his family’s restaurant and ran it so far into the ground that the only way to keep the doors open and the gas on was to partner with Sikora. Truthfully, I do not blame Sikora for having an accountant. Accountants manage money, that is what they WENT TO SCHOOL FOR. In order for a business to be successful you have to both maxamize and utilize everyones strengths to their fullest especially in s situation like this so the only book Kyla should have been trying bury his nose in is a cookbook.

  18. Thank you everyone for your kind words. As you know, I will always move forward.

    For anyone that thinks they know the facts, please state your full name, instead of hiding behind your keyboard and telling lies! I’m not here to argue anyone’s opinions, but I will definitely tell you the facts.

    Contact me at kylap5@gmail.com, we can discuss it further. I will give you the facts, my intellectual Business 101. Please email me with a real address, and stop hiding behind the keyboards.

  19. There’s a lot more to the story than was reported or claimed. We need to hear from all sides.

  20. I’ve worked for Danny Sikora and his father for 16 years on and off now. We were all customers at Thairrific for many years before Danny bailed Kyla out, and opened a new business to keep him cooking. All Danny has had since 2010 with Kyla cooking for him is wave after wave of crazy behavior. I’ve told Danny many times it’s lucky for him I love him, or I’d have been long gone. Kyla may seem warm and kind, but he’s an ass to work for, rarely shows up, does not communicate, plays games and leaves huge messes everywhere. You never knew which Kyla personality was coming thru the door on any given day. I’d write more, but it wouldn’t be nice. Kyla tells people I’m Danny’s slave. That’s hardly true, but when both of us treat each other right, care, and are always there, you can choose to be loyal, and my family is his family.

  21. I have worked with Danny Sikora for 4 years and I can say that he is a very honest and ethical business man. He has always fought the fight to do what is right instead of cutting corners. I have seen situations like this in my own restaurant career when a chef goes into business with someone who is more business educated. The chef does not usually understand what is required by law and ends up making decisions that will put the business at risk. Danny has a history of knowing the law and how to properly run a business. It is sad to see this situation.

  22. I worked with Danny Sikora and his family for years, and I can honestly state that he is a firm believer in following moral values and ethics when it comes to business and life in general. He is not a man that would take such action related to his business without a reasonable cause. I wish him the best in his business.

  23. I’ve been abreast of this situation since the beginning. What started off as a very good relationship turned sour after Kyla demonstrated complete lack of business acumen. With the initial roles delineated between the two according to their comparative advantages, Kyla began making unreasonable demands.

    Thairrific is a developing business. Most developing businesses, especially restaurants run in the red for the first couple of years. After the company was not producing a profit, Kyla demanded he be paid 8.25% of gross sales (getting paid before any other employee). What Kyla has failed to understand is that the start up costs of the business absorb a great deal of capital, which must be paid off or supported via debt.

    In another instance Kyla says that his recipes are copied. Well, this is from the US Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html) Recipes cannot be copyrighted. Sorry.

    At this point Kyla has trained the chefs at Thairrific. Thairrific can use whatever recipes they want. And from what I understand Kyla is going on to other concepts.

    So if you liked Thairrific before, you’ll continue to like it. If you want to support Kyla in his new ventures, please do. I just would never enter into business with Kyla. I would never accept his word. I would never accept his signature on a contract….that said, I would eat at his restaurant, because I want good food. I don’t really care if the person cooking it is reputed to not be trustworthy in business.

  24. I’ve known Danny for several years. He has always made sure that his dealings in his personal and professional lives have been above reproach. I have to wonder where this reporters ethics were when this article was being submitted. How about the editor of this magazine? Was any thought given to what the other side of this story might be. This sounds much like a one sided witch trial. Something that might appear in rags such as “The National Inquirer” or “The Globe”. So much for responsible reporting. Just what were the expenses that kept the partners from being paid? Why did Danny feel the need to involve an outside accountant? Maybe there is a real story here that this reporter ignored in order to stir a pot. Kyla mentions his family quite often. I knew Danny’s dad and have seldom known a man that deserved more respect. The quality and attitude required to achieve what Dr. Sikora lived daily are reflected in his son, Danny. I fail to see what a dissembling failed businessman such as this “chef” can achive through this continuing attack other that making himself feel better about losing his families business through pride and mismanagement.

  25. @Rob, the stuffed wings are still here everyday at the restaurant on Cedar Springs, and also Thairrific.com. Many of the same cooks are still cooking most of the same things. (Plus we are testing out some new ones.)

  26. A number of employees Kyla chased off all told Danny, “If you have a restaurant that does not involve Kyla, let us know and we would be glad to work for you.” Many of us are back, even part time. Now we don’t have to listen to games, manipulation, deal with passive aggressive attitudes, pro-Asian bias, anti-gay comments, and we work for someone with integrity. It’s not just a show for the public.

  27. I’ve eaten at both locations… the Forest location whenever it was open, and also the new location on Cedar Springs… many times. The food and the service is no different. The food is still exellent and the service impecable! I just ate there Wednesday evening. We went with a party of 25+ for a friend’s birthday and we were accomodated professionally and welcomed openly. I’ve also known Danny Sikora for over 10 years now. He has started several businesses that have done really well. Knowing him personally like I do and his ethics, I truly believe he has the best vision for the restaurant as possible, and he has done what he needed to do in order to see that vision proper. Good Luck, Danny and the rest of the staff at Thairiffic! Me and all my friends will definately be back!

  28. I don’t know all the details but I sure would love it if Danny would post the agreement online so we can ALL see how this deal was written that he got to keep the name. Maybe then I can make sense of what happened. This is what I DO KNOW…. Kyla & his family are wonderful, caring people. They are not homophobic or mean spirited. They are hard working people who spent almost every waking hour trying to keep their family restaurant going. At the old location, there was a feeling of warmth, familiarity, friendship and love. Although the new location was easier on the eyes, it lacked the same feeling I got at the Forest location. I frequented the restaurant enough most of the new waitstaff knew me, but none where like Kyla & his sisters.

    Danny might have had good intentions going into this but at some point he realized he could have this all to himself and ousted Kyla. Again, I don’t know details but I DO know the difference between right & wrong. If there really was a partnership, then Danny should do the right thing and allow Kyla to get his equity (equipment, money,whatever ) back at whatever price he put in & give back the restaurant name. Danny has plenty of money, we all know that. He can very easily take the ball & keep moving & continue in the restaurant business if that’s what he wants. But he should do so under a new name & allow Kyla & his family to get back what is rightfully theirs. Danny’s mom wasn’t cooking those receipes for years, Kyla’s mom was.

    The food industry is hard. Partnerships are hard. Business is hard. But wrong IS wrong & God don’t like ugly. I say: Danny, give them back the name, their equipment, let them resume their old location lease, you keep the new place, make a new name for yourself & everyone go their separate ways. Best of luck to everyone & the those who will patron each location will continue to do so. I know this seems simple & you might say it can’t be done that way, but actually it can. It’s the right thing to do & I think most would agree. If you want it resolved, it can be. It’s only as hard as you make it.

    PLEASE let those of who have loved Thairrific from the beginning, enjoy it again. Your new concept could be wonderful too but as it stand right now, it’s tainted by this controversy & it can’t succeed with bad karma.

  29. I never got to the chance to eat at the old location as they have already moved out of there by the time I realized they were in my neighborhood. My bf and I tried out the restaurant on Cedar Springs by accident and then connected it to its former location on Forest Ln. I was very skeptical of Thai restaurants but was very impressed by the food and service. I forgot the server’s name but she was a very nice woman. And I was very surprised by the authenticity of the menu items we tried that night. I was shocked to read about the controversy that has since transgressed. That’s very unfortunate what happened to the restaurant. I’m familiar with the restaurant business as my brother owns one as well. Most of us will never be privy to what really went on between Daniel and Kyla but I do agree with Jac that there is bad karma now. Best of luck to Kyla. Please keep us posted on what you will do since your family is the originator of the fabulous food that we had the fortune to have delightfully ingested.

  30. I have known Daniel Sikora for years now. I also know how critical doing the right thing is to him. Ethics and morals are key, and because I know him well, I have been involved and have seen firsthand in many instances, the actions, games and behavior he has been forced to endure from Kyla Phomsavanh. Sikora always tries to steer people who are veering off track back in line for their own good. He will give people chances. So for him to be pushed so far that he removed Kyla would have to mean very egregiously bad behavior.  One comment from a friend of Kyla’s (which D has removed) referred to Sikora as greedy. That is one adjective that could never be applied to Sikora. He is one of the most generous souls ever to grace this planet. Good gosh, he didn’t have to pay Phomsavanh’s old landlord $23,500+ for Phomsavanh’s old debt of a year of unpaid rent. He could have left the family saddled with that debt. He did it because it was the right thing to do.