Congratulations to Grace Ogas, Line Cook at Beacon Hill at Eastgate, who has recently been awarded her U.S. Citizenship! A bubbly, bright, and energetic person, she is a delightful member of the Beacon Hill team. “Grace is one of the hardest working people I know,” says Executive Chef Luke Theaker. “I have worked with her for years and when a spot became available at Beacon Hill, I knew she’d be a perfect fit. She supports her entire team and is an absolute joy to work with.”
Originally from Thailand, she first came to the United States as an exchange student in high school, where she met her now-husband in geometry class. Even after returning to Thailand following high school, they kept up a long-distance relationship. As she evaluated options for the next step in her life, she followed her heart into cooking. Both her parents placed a significant emphasis on education – her mom and dad both hold Master’s Degrees in Business and Engineering, respectively – and encouraged her to continue her Culinary Arts education in the U.S.
While attending culinary school in Seattle, Grace discovered May Kitchen + Bar on Vashon Island. Immediately, Grace felt at home. May had nailed the ambiance, décor, the food, and the presentation.
“Don’t let the dull looking outside fool you. Inside, you’ll find the warmth of Thailand. The walls are teak and mahogany from a 150-year-old home in Thailand, and the personal touches that make this a distinct experience only continue from there. Right away you know you’re not just in any restaurant you could walk into anywhere; this place has a character that carries over into its food. It’s the details that make this place special. While many of the dishes on the menu are ones you aren’t likely to recognize, they have the staple Pad Thai–except this isn’t any Pad Thai. May’s Pad Thai comes to the table wrapped in a banana leaf. The server opens the steaming noodles at the table and adds the ingredients one by one. This restaurant is more than just grabbing a quick bite. It’s an experience.” – Jenny Mathews, Travel Writer, Vashon-Maury.com
“If I were to open a restaurant, this is exactly the one I’d want to open,” says Grace. “In America, Thai food is mostly only takeout. I want people to have a genuine Thai experience, where you gather around a table with good food and great company. A place where you want to sit for hours!”
She remembers fondly how much these dining experiences meant to her as a child, “We don’t order our own food, we just order everything. Each person has a plate of rice and then you add the main dishes. I remember from my childhood that when we sit at the table and eat together – that is one of the only times when you’re all together.”
For Grace, the best culinary experience also means eating the dish as the chef intended. “I love that they don’t apologize for using difficult to pronounce or spicy ingredients. This is the way the dish is meant to be served!” In her family, her grandmother and aunt always knew exactly what a dish needed, and certainly did not have to worry about writing it down or following a recipe. “I love old fashioned cooking; you don’t have to go to school to learn the technique. They know how to cook, and it works.” It was the combination of learning from older generations and her formal culinary arts education that helped shape her into the cook she is today.
Fish sauce (Tiparos is her favorite brand), chilis, garlic, ginger and spices (lots of them) are just a few of the many ingredients to build a great dish. “It’s about building flavor with layers” she says. “It takes time, and a lot of effort, but when you’re done, it’s so worth it!”
When traveling to visit family in Thailand with her husband and daughter in early 2020, they faced a potential separation for the first time when re-entering the U.S. due to covid restrictions because Grace had a Thai passport, not a U.S. passport. “I’ve been married 10 years. All these years I’ve had a green card and had zero issues traveling back and forth. This experience was frightening. All because I had a Thai passport I couldn’t be with my husband and daughter? No. I will never let myself be separated from my family,” says Grace.
So, she began studying and preparing for her U.S. Citizenship test. After months of preparation, this week she was awarded her citizenship!