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Keo's Bronze Collection


For over three decades, restaurateur Keo Sananikone has been at the epicenter of America's increasing fascination with the cuisine of Thailand. The popularity of his Thai restaurants in Hawaii. Keo explains, stems "not from doing extraordinary things; it comes from consistently doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well." The recipes from his famed restaurants---are not known with glitz but for their savory, spicy Thai flavors. The awards garnered by Keo's restaurants speak for themselves. Bon Appetit voted Keo's "American's Best Thai Restaurant" and Gourmet named it one of "America's Top Tables". Newsweek described Keo's as " One of the choicest dining spots in Honolulu."

Keo Sananikone, who has called Honolulu home since 1975, has ties to Hawaii and the islands and to the United States dates from before his family fled Laos following the Communist takeover. Keo Sananikone was born and raised in Laos. In mid-summer of 1968, Keo first came to Hawaii at age 15 on his way to a private college preparatory school in Ojai, California. Keo graduated from Ojai Valley School in 1970. And in the fall of 1970, Keo entered the University of Washington, and graduated in 1974 with a bachelor degree in Architecture. Following graduation, he attended Japanese business courses at the Japan America Institute of Management and at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

Keo's first job was a dishwasher and waiter at Ojai Valley School where all the students took turns working in the dining room. Keo landed his first paying job at the University of Washington as a cashier at the University cafeteria. Keo is multilingual, in addition to Laotian and English, Keo is fluent in Thai, Vietnamese, and three Chinese dialects - Mandarin, Cantonese and Teochew. Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese, French and Thai food were all prepared in the kitchen of his family home, a multicultural household that would inspire him to pursue a career in the culinary arts.

Keo started his career as a restaurateur officially in 1977 with the opening of his Mekong Restaurant in Honolulu. In December of 1981, a second restaurant was opened and named Keo's Thai Cuisine. August of 1982 saw the opening of another restaurant called Mekong II. In the summer of 1985, Keo published his cookbook, Keo's Thai Cuisine. Keo acquired two farms on the Northshore of Oahu in 1986 and began growing his own flowers, spices, and vegetables. In the winter of 1985, Ten Speed Press, purchased the publishing rights in Keo's cookbooks and began marketing his cookbook worldwide. The August of 1986 saw the opening of yet another restaurant called Keo's at Ward Centre. In the December of 1997, Keo moved his flagship Kapahulu Keo's to a new location to Waikiki, now the grandest and most famous of all his restaurants. In December 1999, Keoni by Keo's was opened in Waikiki, serving Thai and American food. Today, he owns and operates five restaurants with over two hundred employees and continues to delight diners the world over.

Why did a Laotian open a Thai restaurant? "Laotian and Thai language, culture, and religion are very similar," Keo says. "But the food is very different. I felt Laotian food would not have been successful in America at that time. Laotian food is very basic and simple, and Thai food is very exotic and colorful."

The secret of Keo's success has been to create a restaurant as he wanted it. "I visited a lot of ethnic restaurants in America and around the world," he said. "In many ethnic restaurants, the food would be good but the ambience was wrong. Or the ambience would be right but the food and service were not. I put in everything I personally liked in restaurants to create my restaurants."

Along the way, he found time to write a cookbook, Keo's Thai Cuisine, beautifully illustrated with photos by Lou Harrington. When no publisher was interested in the book, Keo published it himself in the summer of 1985 and sold out the first printing of 15,000 copies in a month. "Then five publishers wanted it," he laughs. The book has now sold over 100,000 copies, including 9,000 copies in Thailand and 5,000 copies in Australia and Canada.

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2028 Kuhio Avenue, Waikiki, Hawaii 96815 | 808-951-9355  
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