Pitaya Phanphensophon is a passionate man with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that invites one in return. That passion, united with an unwavering belief that work should also be fun and an irrepressible joi de vivre is what sets the Mango Tree brand apart and on a course for global success.
"If you cook from passion and with love, it comes through in the food," Pitaya explains. "I sincerely believe that." That passion is also what has made him one of Thailand's foremost culinary entrepreneurs and cultural ambassadors, presiding over a restaurant group that began in a humble shophouse 58 years ago when his father opened Thailand's first steamboat and suki restaurant, and now spans 70 locations in 16 countries around the world, with new restaurants in the USA and in China.
For Pitaya, however, it's not about how many locations he has but that very single restaurant bearing the Mango Tree or COCA brands must deliver on its promise to its customers. "Being born into the restaurant business, it's in my blood. I wish to see our brands and restaurants around 500 years from now." With a smile, he adds: "That's called taking the long view."
Since his father's passing and Pitaya taking the reins of the business, he has grown the brands in Thailand and internationally, with flagship restaurants in top international cities including Bangkok, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong.
Pitaya loves rolling his sleeves up, either in the kitchen, as a very hand-on CEO, hosting a monthly television cooking show, teaching cooking classes in his R&D kitchen, and or regularly holding his own dinner parties where he cooks for his family and friends.
"My love affair with Thai food started in earnest when I was in boarding school abroad. Myself, and my fellow Asian students misses rice from Thailand. So it all started with a small rice cooker, soya sauce and sweet Chinese sausage. Later I added mushrooms and chicken before moving on to more elaborate recipes."
(A subsidiary of COCA Holding International which owns Mango Tree and COCA group of brands worldwide)
Trevor MacKenzie is an accidental restaurateur, and a natural one. The self-taught and self-made entrepreneur worked his way through his career’s early years across various jobs and industries in a search for his passion in life, including character-forming time as a cowboy in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.
Trevor's search ended when destiny intervened. A chance stint bartending at night to help him pay for a 'mac daddy' apartment he had rented overlooking the stunning seafront of his native Vancouver introduced him to the buzz of the food and beverage business.
By the second night, he knew he was where he belonged. Within a month, he had set up the bar, set up the restaurant, and been appointed the restaurant’s trainer. The fit was seamless. The rest is history.
That bartending stint also sparked a lifelong love affair with the grape; Trevor is a wine connoisseur par excellence and can hold his own amongst the best sommeliers.
Since then everything has fallen into place for this natural born restaurateur who has notched up 20 years in the industry, honed his craft at legendary restaurants in some of the world’s foodie capitals, and gone on to open more than 50 restaurants in Asia, the Middle East and the US.
A brief stop-over in Thailand sparked a chain of events that resulted in a meeting with Mango Tree Worldwide and COCA Holding International CEO and entrepreneur Pitaya Phanphensophon. Pitaya gave Trevor the big opportunity he had been searching for.
Since joining the group to drive franchising of the brand, Trevor and Mango Tree have picked up a slew of prestigious awards, including Outstanding Thai Franchise to the World, the Excellent Franchise Leadership Award, a nomination for International Franchiser of the Year and a Q Mark Award from the Thailand Department of Import and Export, and the Prime Minister’s Export Award.
Not a man to rest on his laurels, Trevor is a relentless adventurer forever dreaming up fresh quests to challenge himself. Next year he will climb Kilimanjaro as part of a charity effort to help raise money for a close friend’s physically disabled son. An upcoming trip to Dubai will see him indulge his love of skydiving.
No less exhilarating has been the ride that has seen the Mango Tree group’s international outlets grow to now gross over USD $50 million annually, across 70 outlets.
A true and passionate believer in his product, Trevor shares the vision of his CEO: to take the Mango Tree brand, and the magic of Thai cooking to a growing global audience, eventually planting a Mango Tree in every major international city worldwide.