Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation

By: colleen clark

May 18, 2016

There is nothing shy about Chef Kris Yenbamroong. His restaurants are a riot of color, his dishes are fiery and bold, and he met his now wife on a night that ended in a bar brawl. But, like in the Thai cuisine he’s famous for, fire and spice flame out without the balance of other flavors. In the case of his curries, that’s tangy lime, sweet coconut milk and bright aromatics. In the case of Yenbamroong, it’s wife Sarah St. Lifer.

Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation, Laurel & Wolf, 4

Yenbamroong and St. Lifer designed Night + Market Song to be a wildly bold neighborhood hangout.

“We’re coming from completely different places, but you don’t want to be with another you. Sarah has helped me to focus, she’s brought structure and a sense of aesthetics to our life,” Yenbamroong says.

That applies to both their working life, running the wildly popular LA restaurants Night + Market and Night + Market Song, and to the home they share together.

Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation, Laurel & Wolf, nightmarketdw-425-DW

The duo worked together to design the bold look of Night + Market Song, a celeb-fave Thai restaurant in LA’s Silverlake neighborhood, which helped score Yenbamroong the title of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef.

There, the duo wanted a space that referenced the lively roadside eateries of Northern Thailand but in a distinctly LA way. So in lieu of Thai pin-up girl posters, they hung a vintage Cindy Crawford one. Fried chicken sandwiches are served alongside Thai drinking snacks on tables that are as likely to host neighborhood couples as they are celebs like Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Aziz Ansari.

“It’s for date night, it’s for birthdays, it’s for graduations. It’s for just getting drunk with your friends. It’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people, which is really special,” St. Lifer says.

Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation, Laurel & Wolf, nightmarket2

At home Yenbamroong and St. Lifer opt for a calm vibe, but in their restaurant, they picked bright colors and fun, kitschy elements like this beaded curtain.

But the duo have had their hands full, between their recent wedding, starting a cookbook that’s due out next year and preparing to open a new restaurant in Venice Beach. They needed a calm and organized space in which to create. So they called upon Laurel & Wolf designer Jessica Ruiz Lee to makeover their home office.

“I used to open the door to this office, look at it and think, ‘I can’t work here.’ It was too disorganized. Then I’d sit in the living room and be distracted all over again,” Yenbamroong says.

Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation, Laurel & Wolf, nightmarketdw-11-DW

First Laurel & Wolf’s designers tackled the room’s organizational elements, using clean-lined, modern bookcases to showcase the couple’s cookbook collection. In order to lend a calm vibe to the space, Ruiz Lee kept to a neutral palette with pops of blue.

“I also chose patterns that represent natural elements like waves and water, Ruiz Lee says.

On one wall, she displayed both sentimental and inspirational elements from their life–a print that the couple bought in Mexico City, a sketch by Yenbamroong’s favorite tattoo artist, a handwritten recipe from Song.

“Kris is a really sentimental guy, so he keeps ticket stubs, fliers, things like that. When you put those objects on a wall, they go from being stacks of paper to really meaning something. You see it there every day, it’s more present in your life,” St. Lifer says.

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Functionality, though, is really important to the couple. Yenbamroong spent his teenage years living in Bangkok and was always confused by the practice among wealthy families of having two kitchens–one for show and another out back where most of the daily cooking was done.

“It’s really important to me to live in your space. Buy nice stuff, a nice table, a nice jacket, a nice kitchen. Buy it, and really use it,” Yenbamroong says.

But the couple is also continuously inspired by other homes in Thailand, ones that double as businesses. “So many people there live where they work. It’s your home, but you’re also welcoming customers. Spaces like that–spaces that serve a purpose–those feel so much more lived in and welcoming to me,” St. Lifer says.

Their new office is similarly a place for both life and work. Yenbamroong sits at the desk working on his cookbook while St. Lifer, a writer, works on the sunny adjoining patio. Through the open French doors, they can collaborate, bounce ideas back and forth and then take a break for an al fresco lunch.

“With the craziness of running a restaurant, it’s really nice for us to be able to come home and decompress. With our new office, we’re still going to be doing work at home, but it’s going to be better work. It’s a clean slate,” St. Lifer says.

Food & Wine’s Best New Chef Finds a Recipe for Relaxation, Laurel & Wolf, nightmarket100

Designed by Jessica Ruiz Lee

Styled by Ashley Bussell

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