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Meet Jenn Saesue: Inspirational Leader Behind Fish Cheeks

Naomi Banks | 13 March, 2024

            Meet Jenn Saesue: Inspirational Leader Behind Fish Cheeks

Jenn Saesue, co-founder of Fish Cheeks since 2016, shared her Thai restaurant's unique approach for Women's History Month. Breaking from the tradition of Thai cuisine in America, Fish Cheeks showcases diverse, authentic Thai flavors. Saesue detailed her commitment to direct communication, the influence of her father's unwavering work ethic, and her feeling towards being situated on the iconic Bond St. With an all-female management team, the restaurant embodies inclusivity and attention to detail, reflecting Saesue's pride in her thriving business.

Her responses have been edited for length and clarity. Check out the interviews with managers Aditi Sonajirao, Christina Stopielo, and Pud Dechkla by clicking on the hyperlinks.

Purchase the only print signed by the owner to support a worthy cause. 100% of the proceeds of the signed print benefit the Brooklyn Community Service's Transitional Living Community women's shelter.

How does the food in Thailand influence how you run Fish Cheeks?

Saesue: Fish Cheeks is an authentic Thai restaurant with a focus on seafood. A lot of the influences are the food that I grew up eating in Thailand. For the longest time, Thai food in New York City has had this similar menu: Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, and curries. When we opened in 2021, I think we were the first ones to target that. We didn’t do any noodles or Pad Thai. We just want to educate people that there’s more to Thai food than just Pad Thai.

What’s your favorite Thai dish?

Saesue: It’s so hard to pick one dish! There’s 100 ways to go about cooking things, so you never really get bored.
In Thailand, seafood is incredible, so any time that my mom cooked prawns or fish was amazing and so delicious. I also love Mango sticky rice and I know that’s cliche, but it's delicious. Mango in Thailand is out of the world because it’s so sweet.

What’s something you’ve learned that influenced the operations at Fish Cheeks?

Saesue: I believe in clarity. I believe in strong communication either good or bad. When you’re direct, you get more things done, and you can expect more from people.

Who are the elders that have influenced your work ethic?

Saesue: My dad’s work ethic influenced me. He’s the type of person who gives 100%. He would always say, “It doesn't matter what you do if you are putting your 110% in. Whether you fail or succeed, it doesn’t matter. You have to give it a fighting chance.”

How did you know that this building was “The One”?  

Front View of Fish Cheeks Building

Saesue: We got a call from our broker, saying that this building is available. It’s Bond St. I was like, “What are you talking about? There’s no way that I can afford this!” She said, “I got a deal,” and when we saw it, we loved it right away. The cobblestone street – it’s one of the most iconic streets in New York City.

We put the awning on and it was controversial. Some of the neighbors didn't like it because it was too colorful, but I think it’s a nice look. I know that most of the buildings on the street are very serious and it's beautiful. We're just bringing a little playfulness into the street.

The color scheme and the airiness of the interior help bring what we're trying to serve and support the food. A lot of the design is very Thai – the tiles are inspired by the roofs from the temples in Thailand, the color scheme, the wallpaper is extreme, like the plastic tablecloths that you can find in Southeast Asia. We played around with a lot of colors and textures, but also, kept it very light and airy and inviting in here.

Talk me through how the women staff impact the flow of the restaurant.

Saesue: We have a very big female team here. All of my managers and my floor managers are women. My sous chef is a woman. I believe in inclusion and equality for all, but it worked out that a lot of them are women. They give it that extra love, care, and attention to detail.

How proud are you of yourself?

Saesue: I'm very proud of myself at the moment. I have a very thriving business. We've been open since 2016. I can't ask for more. The customers are amazing. The neighbors are amazing. The industry is amazing. We have a lot of love and support from everyone.

Fish Cheeks is located at 55 Bond St,. New York, NY 10012 and is currently open on Sunday through Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m, and on Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 11:15 p.m., with happy hour from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00pm. (212) 677-2223

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