One of the first Asian restaurants in Austin will close its doors after service tomorrow night, as Dr. Foo Swasdee sets to embark on a new journey. Dr. Foo, as she is affectionately known, opened Satay in 1987 and says the North Austin restaurant is the oldest Thai restaurant in town.
Dr. Foo will close the restaurant at 3202 W. Anderson Lane, but she has plans for the space. The Bangkok native will be a part of a new project called Sumptuary, which she describes as a hybrid pop-up/rentable restaurant and an incubator. The space will host chefs, both from in an and out of town, who will cook their own menus for a period of days or weeks.
“I’m getting old and thought it would be a good time to have young people in the city of Austin show their talents,” Dr. Foo said with a laugh. “I want to be able to use the restaurant to help people who want to test out the concept of their restaurant.”
Dr. Foo said she will be on hand to serve in the capacity of a culinary and creative advisor, and that she intends to continue cooking on occasion and teaching classes. People can stay abreast of her teaching and cooking schedule, which will be available through the Satay Club. Guests can join the club free of charge via a link on the forthcoming Sumptuary website. Additionally, Dr. Foo said she will use the space at times to host dinners to benefit various non-profits in her adopted hometown.
“I love cooking. I love creating, and I love Austin,” Dr. Foo said.
The design and logistics are still being finalized for Sumptuary, but Dr. Foo said she hopes to be operation by the holiday season or early next year.
Satay is taking reservations and accepting walk-in guests for its final night of service tomorrow.
From the archives. Former Statesman food writer Kitty Crider wrote the following about the beloved Swasdee in 1998:
Owner of Satay and Thai Noodle, Etc., House restaurants and maker of 19 Thai sauces
Saucy Spice? Ph.D. Spice? Many names fit Foo, a 50-year-old entrepreneur who has a doctorate in food science from Texas A&M University, has worked for Kellogg’s, owned a clothing boutique, operates an import business, been a restaurateur 11 years and a commercial sauce-maker for six.
Her 19 products, spun off the menu of her Satay restaurant and distributed internationally, include the award-winning and best-selling Original Spicy Peanut Sauce, Thai Roast Coconut Salsa, Thai Jungle Salsa, and Pad Thai Sauce . In Austin, these items can be found at Albertsons, H-E-B, Randalls, Whole Foods and Central Market. (See her Web site: http://www.satayusa.com .)
The veteran Austin Spice Girl, Foo, married 23 years, has been cooking since age 8 in Thailand, where her mother had three restaurants. But in the 24 years that Foo has been in the U.S., she has definitely seen food get hotter. At Satay, an Anderson Lane restaurant she opened 11 years ago, more children are eating hot and spicy food than in previous years .
A vivacious speaker, she travels frequently both nationally and internationally, promoting and teaching Thai food. (Next class is Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Texas Fiery Food Show ).
Favorite spice: chile and Thai ginger
Favorite spice cookbook: “The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices” by Sarah Garland and “Cooking Thai Food in an American Kitchen” by Malulee Pinsuvana
Favorite way to turn up the heat: add Thai chile pepper or jalapeno and serrano, which are the closest to it.