Chef Brad Greenhill is taking his Thai concept back to its humble beginnings, with a food truck and pop-ups.

By Elyse Inamine
Updated May 24, 2017
© DDEAF Magazine

When a fire swallowed up the concrete garage that houses the critically acclaimed Katoi a week ago, chef Brad Greenhill was 8,900 miles away, researching on an island off of southern Thailand.

After 48 hours of trying to get home and just one day of assessing the damage, he developed a game plan: start construction next week and reopen the restaurant by summer.

“Opening a restaurant is challenging, but when a restaurant burns down that’s even more challenging,” says Greenhill. “But there is never an option to give up on it. That is the spirit of Detroit—no choice but to have some resolve and go forward.”

The city’s restaurant community reacted quickly to the news. A regular patron set up a GoFundMe page—reverently titled “The Mothership Will Fly Again,” as Greenhill and business partner Courtney Henriette have dubbed their first brick-and-mortar location of Katoi the mothership. Nearby Corktown restaurants, some of which hosted Katoi when it was just a pop-up, have held fundraisers. And restaurants in Detroit and across the country have offered one-night kitchen takeovers where proceeds from the dinner go directly toward benefitting displaced employees. Altogether, they've raised over $20,000 for Katoi.

“The community has been really supportive. It’s been nothing short of amazing,” Greenhill says. “We’ll be back better than ever hopefully.”

Now until the restaurant goes into construction, Greenhill is going back to square one, looking for a new kitchen space, cleaning the old food truck and readying his team for the road again. These pop-ups put Katoi on the map with their vibrant thrice-cooked sweet potatoes and khao soi.

“Katoi didn’t start as a restaurant, but a food truck and a pop-up. It’s been in so many different forms, so it’s not just a building,” he says. “There is never an option to give up on it. This is what we do and we got to find a way to do it again.”