Chef Bee Is Happy at Oishi Thai
Piyarat Arreeratn is not in the kitchen. Tonight, the boyish chef with spiky hair roams the dining room at his family-run restaurant, Oishi Thai. He pats a blond kid on the head, wipes down an empty table, and bounces around asking guests if everything is all right. Chef Bee, as he is commonly known, then vanishes down a narrow hallway. He emerges cradling a grand dish -- seafood pad thai crowned with a massive lobster tail and a lone lilac orchid.
billwisserphoto.com Deep-fried whole fish at Oishi Thai
"Tweet it. Enjoy it," he says, grinning widely and planting the plate on a nearby patron's table.
The woman snaps a photo and tweets it. And, almost immediately, Chef Bee tweets it too.
This sort of publicity push might seem odd at Oishi Thai, a sushi and Thai spot that occupies the same strip mall as T.G.I.Friday's and Publix in North Miami. But this isn't a regular night for the soft-spoken, inky-eyed chef and his tidy, dim restaurant. It's a homecoming of sorts.
For much of the past year, Chef Bee oversaw Khong River House, a posh restaurant off Lincoln Road that earned a James Beard nomination for its refined northern Thai cuisine. But two months ago, he suddenly quit and returned to Oishi Thai, the restaurant he helped found in 2005.
This abrupt departure did not go over well. On August 27, Khong's owner, 50 Eggs, sued Chef Bee and Oishi Thai, alleging breach of contract. According to the 45-page complaint, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Chef Bee violated a noncompete agreement when he trained with 50 Eggs, resigned, and went into competition against the restaurant group.
The drama has saturated Miami's food scene, and neither plaintiff nor defendant has come out unscathed. While 50 Eggs impugns Bee's competence, other chefs such as Jamie DeRosa, Jeremiah Bullfrog, and Kevin Sbraga have lambasted the restaurant group. Social media flutters with support for Oishi Thai. Even at the restaurant itself, diners coo encouragement. "It's about money," one patron remarked. "Greed!" another declared. "I can't believe they are doing this to you."