Manayunk chef runs fundraiser for orphans in her native Thailand

 Philadelphia chefs participate in a showdown at the EATS festival. (Courtesy of Food Trust and EATS Philly)

Philadelphia chefs participate in a showdown at the EATS festival. (Courtesy of Food Trust and EATS Philly)

Growing up on an orchid farm outside of Bangkok in Thailand, Nongyao “Moon” Krapugthong never imagined she would work in the food and restaurant industry.

But after coming to the United States and pursuing a degree in economics and photography, Krapugthong began to cultivate a passion — and talent — for cooking. She opened Chabaa Thai Bistro in Manayunk in 2005. It quickly grew to fame as one of the best Thai restaurants in Philadelphia. Her Japanese restaurant, Yanako, also in Manayunk, opened in 2012 to equal recognition.

As Krapugthong found her success in the United States, she never forgot her life in Bangkok or the work ethic instilled in her by her family. In 2011, a young employee told her about Wat Bodd Voraditth, an orphanage in Anthong, Thailand.

“I was offering her a birthday gift, but the young woman declined,” Krapugthong said. “She asked instead for a donation in her name to the WBV.”

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While touring her home country just a few months later, accompanied by renowned Philadelphia kitchen designer, Judy Spielman, Krapugthong decided to make a visit to Wat Bodd Voraditth. The pair spent time with the children, and toured the kitchen and the dormitories. 

Once they got back to the U.S., Krapugthong and Spielman decided to raise money for a new kitchen and garden to be built at WBV. Eventually, they hope they can provide the support needed to teach kids at the orphanage basic culinary skills, preparing them to lead healthy lives, and perhaps even launch food service careers of their own.

In the fall of 2011 they threw their inaugural EATS (Eat Along The Streets) Philly festival. They describe the event as “a celebration of street food traditions.” EATS brings together Philadelphia chefs and food trucks for a night of culinary competition.

Partnering with the Food Trust and hosted by Spike TV Bar Rescue’s Brian Duffy, this year’s event was held on May 5. Attendees enjoyed all-you-can eat tastings from local food trucks and breweries. A showdown of Philadelphia’s favorite chefs competed in a judged cook-off where VIP ticket holders had the opportunity to choose the evening’s best of the best.

The grand prize went to Chef Chad Rosenthal of the Lucky Well in Ambler. Popular vote went to Marcie Turney of Bud and Marylin’s and Nomad Pizza was named as the evening’s best food truck.

All proceeds from the night are going towards the continued support of the Wat Bodd Voraditth orphanage in Anthong, Thailand. The total amount raised for the evening has not yet been released and EATS Philly is still accepting donations on their website.

“Food is the perfect metaphor for nourishing the soul,” said Krapugthong. “The children at Wat Bodd Voraditth are just like children everywhere; they want hugs, and they want comfort. They want to feel clean and healthy, and mostly, to be taken care of. Sharing food is the ultimate symbol of hospitality.”

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