May Burgess learned to cook from an early age as a girl growing up with eight siblings in southern Thailand, where neighbors often shared techniques and invited her to gin koa (eat with them). After graduating from law school, she moved to the U.S. to pursue her master's degree and ended up in Seattle, where she opened her first restaurant, Jai Thai. That's where she met her future husband, Tom, started a family and embarked on a new adventure, relocating to the Spokane area. They opened the first Thai Bamboo in 2001, followed by three more, including the most recent in Coeur d'Alene.
RESTAURANT WEEK: Who is your culinary hero (or heroes) and why?
BURGESS: I loved Anthony Bourdain. I believe he inspired a love of travel and interest in seeing how other people live around the world, in many people. He showed the world that we can be united by our love of food and that we are not so different as one may think.
I also love Bobby Flay! He's so creative, innovative and smooth in how he uses different herbs and spices around the world. He's not too bad on the eyes either!
What is your culinary philosophy?
Always give another person's food a try. I believe it only brings the world closer together.
What is special or unique about the regional culinary scene right now?
All around Spokane, throughout the 16 years I've lived here, I've seen so many more foods from different cultures pop up. Food from Japan, Ethiopia, the Middle East, India, and many more. It makes me so happy to see Spokane embrace this culinary diversity.
What kinds of places do you look for when you dine out? What excites you?
When I'm traveling, I tend to look for really local restaurants, street food and markets. That's where I believe you can get the best feel for the area. I especially love restaurants with a view, especially of the ocean! Dining should be a visual experience as well. Whether that's the beauty in the food, the atmosphere or the company you're with.
You've participated in Restaurant Week in the past. What's new or different this year for you?
We are going to have some new dishes that aren't on our everyday menu. Last year, we tried some new dishes that weren't yet available and it was a hit. We will, of course, still offer some fan favorites, but we are excited to get creative and offer some new dishes. Our biggest goal is to give guests an amazing dining experience with delicious Thai cuisine.