The New Penny: Pennapa “Penny” Chutima

General manager of Lotus of Siam

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

ACHIEVEMENTS: Chutima might tell you she’s the dishwasher at one of Las Vegas’ most famous restaurants, but in reality the 25-year-old is running the front of the house on weekends while studying at Mount San Antonio College near Los Angeles during the week. The daughter of James Beard Award-winning chef Saipin Chutima, she has implemented health care for Lotus’ employees, began sourcing local and hormone-free ingredients and is trying to grow the tiny kitchen, which is the same size as when the Thai restaurant was just a small storefront.

NEW-SCHOOL IDEAS: As part of the first generation of her family to be raised in the U.S., she sees the differences in how her parents deal with the family business and how she would handle them, especially after the brief Lotus New York venture about five years ago, when her father became ill and the business fell apart. “They’re the type that if there are any problems, they would rather handshake it out, like the old school, but in this day and age, there’s no such thing.”

EMPIRE EXPANSION: Although she is thinking about going to law school, Chutima says she’ll always be around to help grow the business—first next door, then Downtown, and then back in New York. “My parents are very reserved, they’re not risk takers, so it takes a while to sell them. They’ve been burned so many times.”

SIBLING KITCHEN RIVALRY: “I think when it comes to the Northern style [Thai cuisine], my sister’s pretty good. When it comes to the grilling and healthy side, that’s me,” she says. “We try to stay out of each other’s hair, but sometimes, it’s like, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’”

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