VOLUME 28 NO. 8 | FEBRUARY 14 - 20, 2009

TYPHOON! wants your love story

Last updated 2-12-09 at 9:14 a.m.
Typhoon! owners Steve and Bo Kline (photo provided by Typhoon!)

By Jacklyn Tran
Northwest Asian Weekly

When Typhoon! restaurant first opened in 1995, husband and wife co-owners Steve and Bo Kline had no idea the name would be a forecast of what was to come. Soon after opening, a rush of ice storms hit the Portland, Ore., area, forcing the new restaurateurs to shut down for several days.

The storms passed and 14 years later, the Klines have experienced many events and victories together. Along the way, they’ve also shared in the milestones of their customers. Now with a total of seven Typhoon! Restaurants open in Oregon and Washington, they have countless memories of customers’ stories. The Klines are celebrating these stories on Valentine’s Day.

The love story that started it all was that of the Klines. Steve Kline was a screenwriter living in Los Angeles in 1988 when he made his way to Thailand to produce a film on the Vietnam War.

“We were renting a couple floors of a five-star hotels in Bangkok — the Regence — now Four Seasons. She worked out of the hotel,” Steve recalled.

Bongoj (Bo) Lohasawat was a marketing executive at the Amanpuri resort at the time. They met, fell in love, got married, and lived in California with their three children until Steve lost his job.

The family packed up and made their way to the Pacific Northwest, settling in Portland. With the odds stacked against them, Steve and Bo had faith in each other.

“We were desperate [when we opened Typhoon!], but we had kids to raise,” said Steve. “I knew how good of a cook Bo was, and we’d done a lot of catering in L.A.”

The first few months were rocky. “There was concern that Bo might have to take the kids back to Thailand to raise them if I couldn’t support them,” Steve said.

Even with this stark reality facing the couple, they envisioned big goals for their new endeavor from its inception.
“We wanted to create one of the top Thai restaurants in the world at the get-go,” said Steve.

And the couple did — one with an extensive menu that interprets not only the usual regional fare of Thailand but also exudes the essence of cuisine enjoyed by both the peasants and the palace.

Since the opening, Bo’s culinary skills have been well recognized. She has been invited twice to showcase at the James Beard House in New York, where top chefs from around the world are called upon to host dinners. Debuting alongside her was another chef-in-the-making: their daughter Tara, 17, who first got her food handlers permit at the age of 10.

This elite cooking experience is normally reserved for executive chefs and their sous chefs, but when presented with the chance, Bo couldn’t resist bringing along her crew of restaurant chefs. Expenses aside, Bo wanted them to share in the opportunity.

“We like helping our staff grow and evolve,” said Steve. “Bo’s given a lot of her countrymen and women the chance to grow and progress professionally in America.”

Creating opportunity is important to the Klines, who have hired many staff members out of Thailand.

“We’ve been with them since they first stepped into the states. Their life and family grows. [I’m] very proud to see them do that,” said Bo.

Throughout all the success, Bo still remembers that it’s the customers that count the most. This Valentine’s Day, as a way to recognize them, they’ve asked couples and families to share stories of love or life that have a special connection with Typhoon! In return for their stories, they’d like to provide a special treat for their storytellers and possibly host a special reception.

“Restaurants are special to guests,” said Bo. “We’re often part of a family’s history, part of their legend, and the stories they tell their children. At a time when the economy has pressured so many fine restaurants into closing, we want to get back to the basics and celebrate what’s really important.”

The Klines have realized their popular restaurant’s potential as a place for first dates. They have taken part at many special occasions such as engagements, wedding rehearsals, graduations, birthdays, and have even being credited in helping to deliver babies. Past-due pregnant women come in for the superwild shrimp, their spiciest dish, as a technique to encourage labor.

Children and family, love and life, all things the Klines have appreciated and experienced much of throughout the years, have made the storms of their world much easier to endure. (end)

For more information about Typhoon! restaurants, including the Redmond and Seattle locations, visit www.typhoonrestaurants.com.

Jacklyn Tran can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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