Devon Whitsell didn’t even like Asian food growing up.
But the owner of a new Thai restaurant in Edwardsville fell in love with Thai food and culture after meeting his fiance, Wannisa Suriya, whose parents immigrated from Thailand.
“The diversity of the food is amazing,” said Whitsell, 24, of Granite City, formerly of Edwardsville. “You can go to any Thai place and the food is going to be different, depending on whether its from northeastern Thailand or southern Thailand or wherever.”
Dishes range from Thai favorites such as pad Thai and drunken noodles to larb, crying tiger and other eastern classics. Whitsell also serves soups that aren’t always available at Thai restaurants in the United States. Suriya, 24, is partial to the khao soi.
“I love curry, and it’s like a curry noodle soup,” she said. “My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid, and now I don’t see her quite as often.”
Suriya’s parents live in Chicago. She studies early childhood education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she met Whitsell five years ago, and works part time at the restaurant.
All of the sauces and some of the pastes are made from scratch. Everything is fresh. We’re not using anything boxed or pre-made. I buy fresh Atlantic salmon and slice my own rib eye.
Devon Whitsell on Bann Thai dishes
Whitsell honed his Thai cooking skills by hanging out with her family and working at another Thai restaurant in Edwardsville. He adds his own twist to traditional recipes.
“When (Suriya and I) got our first place together, the only thing I used in the house to cook was a wok,” he said.
Whitsell decided to leave college after three years and open his own business because he saw a good opportunity when Taj Indian Cuisine vacated its former storefront.
He had grown up in family businesses, including his parents’ property management company and his grandparents’ bison farm. Opening Bann Thai seemed a natural move.
“All of our dishes are made from scratch,” Whitsell said. “All of the sauces and some of the pastes are made from scratch. Everything is fresh. We’re not using anything boxed or pre-made. I buy fresh Atlantic salmon and slice my own rib eye.”
Bann Thai is at 4 Club Centre Court, Suite H, off Illinois 157. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 618-307-5894 or visit http://bannthaiinc.com/ or the Facebook page.