Explore New York City

Honoring Women in New York City

For Women’s History Month, we are celebrating some of the restaurant industry’s female leaders in New York City.

The accomplishments of women throughout history have been nothing short of extraordinary. Though women’s rights have come a long way, many still combat unequal pay, discrimination and the struggle for gender equality on a daily basis. 

Celebrating Fantastic Females of New York City

March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day. The accomplishments of women should be celebrated and recognized daily. This month, we are highlighting two amazing women who are making strides in the restaurant and culinary worlds. 

Hong Thaimee, Owner of Thaimee Love, Pad Thaimee & Thaimee Blossom

Hong Thaimee took numerous career paths before finding her true calling in the culinary world. Cooking became more than a career for her; it was a way to give back and serve. She debuted her restaurant, Thaimee Love, in the fall of 2021, and she also runs the NYC rice and noodle delivery service Pad Thaimee along with a meal subscription plan that’s fully plant-based Thaimee Blossom.

WT: How did you get your start in the industry 
Thaimee: I was working as a Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for a pharmaceutical company in Thailand. From the outside, it was a dream job, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. While volunteering for the 2004 tsunami relief efforts, I realized I wanted to create a company with the purpose of spreading love and serving people.

Cooking with my family was always a central part of my life, and I thought, ‘This is how I can give back.’ So, I quit my corporate job and reinvented my career by creating opportunities for myself – like asking for front-of-house positions at top restaurants in hopes of getting jobs in the kitchen.

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Thaimee: The fact that I am able to manage my work-life balance and respect myself wholeheartedly. I remind myself that work is not everything, and there is much more in life. Most importantly – to be present and live!

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Thaimee: Everything one can imagine. From financial to personal to mental challenges – I have experienced them all. The better question is what keeps me going – and that’s the desire to create, serve others and spread my love and knowledge of Thai cuisine to as many as possible.

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career?
Thaimee: I would like to create a brand that is meaningful. I am Hong Thaimee. Just like my ideas and concepts – Thaimee Love, Pad Thaimee, Thaimee Blossom and the many more to come – are meaningful in their own ways. I measure my success in more ways than just financial indicators. I want more than that. I want something that money can’t buy. 

Hong Thaimee of Thaimee Love New York | WhereTraveler
Hong Thaimee, Owner of Thaimee Love, Pad Thaimee & Thaimee Blossom (Courtesy Hong Thaimee)

Mayumi Kobayashi, General Manager for MIFUNE & Sushi AMANE

Mayumi Kobayashi knows that one of the most uniting, joyful elements in the world is food. The General Manager of MIFUNE and Sushi AMANE is all about bringing joy to everyone, and incorporating that into her company culture has brought increasing success to the two restaurants. 

WT: How did you get your start in the industry?
Kobayashi: Before I switched to the restaurant industry, I worked at a video game company doing international marketing and PR for many years. I left this video game company due to their famously toxic, misogynistic, sexist and racist company culture. 

Many people dream about just getting their foot in the door at this company, but I was eager to get out and did so without another job lined up. After being so unhappy for so many years career-wise, I wanted to do something more fulfilling and contribute to society in a better, kinder, immediate way. 

I pondered what brings joy to myself and everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, social class, political ideals, creed etc. My answer was food. I believe for most people, some of our fondest core memories involve food. 

I’m sure everyone, myself included, ponders about owning or running a cafe or restaurant to some degree, but since I didn’t have any food industry experience, I didn’t want to spend my life savings and open a restaurant and hope that it would work out. Knowing the statistic that most restaurants fail within the first two or three years, I was quite hesitant if my dream were even realistic with no restaurant experience. 

After leaving my toxic but cushy video game company job, I got a job at a little restaurant in the suburbs making $10 an hour as a barista. My family, friends, everyone thought I had lost my marbles, but my plan was to work there for six months to even see if I enjoyed being in the food industry and if I did, I would apply to culinary school to become a chef.

However, three months into the job, I was promoted to General Manager, and I have never looked back. It truly was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Kobayashi: I got the first validation that I was doing something right when the little restaurant in the suburbs was awarded the best brunch in the county, and the sales numbers soared with me as the General Manager. 

However, my favorite personal achievement is that I have built a company culture where I have an extremely low staff turnaround. After having so many toxic and dreadful bosses throughout my life, the good, kind bosses really left a strong impression on me. I swore to myself to be the best boss I can be, in the hopes that my staff would look back fondly of me as their boss years later, as I do mine. 

The restaurant industry has a notoriously high staff turnaround, and I knew it doesn’t have to be that way. I wanted to make a workplace where everyone feels welcome, safe, accepted, valued, respected and earns a fair, livable wage. I

t is not an easy industry, and money matters, of course, but in the end, I can’t do this without them, and I do my best to express my gratitude to them every day. A low staff turnaround might be a small, insignificant achievement to most, but it’s an achievement I am most proud of. 

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Kobayashi: I’ve learned as a woman that the higher the position and the more I earned, the harder I had to work to earn my respect from my fellow male counterparts. There have been many situations throughout my career where I’ve actually believed the way I am treated would be different if I were a man.

It’s a daily struggle for every woman as we are judged more harshly, and I am no exception. As a woman and a minority, I strive for a better tomorrow and future for us in my own little way, in my immediate universe. 

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career?
Kobayashi: As much as I love the hustle and bustle of New York City, I ultimately would like to own a cafe or restaurant in the suburbs or countryside someday. 

Mayumi Kobayashi of MIFUNE & Sushi AMANE New York | WhereTraveler
Mayumi Kobayashi, General Manager for MIFUNE & Sushi AMANE (Courtesy Mayumi Kobayashi)