Friday Future Lister: From Parisian Kitchen to Global Inspiration: Arnon 'KK' Hoontrakul's Journey Uncovered!

Koktail Magazine

14 Jun 2024

Inside Arnon 'KK' Hoontrakul's secret to being a food entrepreneur extraordinaire.

Rooted in his childhood experiences in a family-owned restaurant in Paris, Arnon "KK" Hoontrakul's path has been marked by a passion and a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed in the competitive hospitality industry.

In the world of food and beverage entrepreneurship, he stands out for his diverse portfolio of restaurants and bars, uniquely combining creativity with community engagement.

Growing up above his family's restaurant in Paris, Arnon was immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the culinary world from a young age.

“I literally grew up in the restaurant. We lived above the restaurant in Paris even before we started renovating. We were living together with a Thai designer and carpenter. So I saw and experienced first hand how a F&B business runs. I guess you could say now that a lot of ‘running’ things come second nature to me.”

Arnon shares insights into how his family's restaurant in France influenced his approach to managing his own restaurant and bar businesses.

Creativity is central to his work, and Opium Bar was designed with the theme of 'Liquid Surreality,' aiming to transport visitors to the historical atmosphere of a hazy opium den from Chinatown's past.

When asked about the bar’s theme and how he came up with these concepts, Arnon reflected,

“I truly believe that what we consume should evoke some kind of emotions or feeling inside you. For example, people talk about their mum’s home cooking – those dishes transport you back to your childhood. So at Opium we want to create something that triggers memories because I believe that kind of experience is most satisfying. So we try to make drinks that will challenge your perception and hopefully evoke some kind of emotion – hence a liquid surreality.”

He believes these elements play an important role in shaping the customer experience.

In addition to running restaurants and bar businesses—Opium Bar, Anya’s Place and Archie Nitro—Arnon has worn many hats, serving as a barista, ice cream maker, gallery owner, and photographer.

Arnon explains how this diverse experience has contributed to his success.

“I tend to think of many aspects of the business. From creator to consumer – within those categories: from owner to bartender to dish washer and casual eater to hardcore food/drink fan. This allows me to cater for people who appreciate our creations.”

When faced with challenges, Arnon shared how he overcame them.

“Time is always in shorthand. Spend your time wisely, don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done but I find exercising really help with concentration and energy to do more things in limited time.”

When asked to share an example of navigating challenges within the system, drawing inspiration from his role models and "The Godfather" novel, Arnon said,

“Perhaps ‘The Godfather’ isn’t the best example to follow. But certainly, hard work pays off, much like what my grandfather has done. If Don Corleone could teach you anything, it’s don’t go down without a fight.”

Looking ahead, Arnon plans to create new restaurants that fill gaps in the market. He elaborates on these gaps and his plans to address them.

“Probably one of the most difficult questions so far. Obviously if you enter the market with the same product then you’re going to have to compete with everyone else. But if you have something different then people will come to you. I think giving customers something different and genuine will always win.”

Regarding his goals and aspirations for his restaurant and bar businesses, as well as his role within the industry, Arnon shared,

“Of course, having more successful businesses would be ideal. But keeping the ones already operating successful for years to come would be the goal. I would like to have the opportunity to provide a place for aspiring bartenders to learn how to tend bar and make genuinely good drinks, as well as creating their own signatures rather than just pour pre-mixes.”

Lastly, he offers advice to aspiring food entrepreneurs, especially those aiming to build a brand with creativity and community engagement at its core,

“Give customers the best you can do. Believe in your products and persevere. Communication is key – make sure customers understand what you’re doing and why it’s better than your competitors. Be good to your neighbours and community, as they are with you all the time, not just your operating hours.”