The enigmatic postings on Thairriffic’s website don’t help much to explain why Chef Kyla is no longer on staff at the restaurant near the Cedar Springs strip. The messages began appearing earlier this week and today it reads:
For our loyal customers, Chef Kyla (myself) and Family (Original owners that started and built Thairrific 10 years ago) would like to thank you for coming to Thairrific.
However, due to changes internally … My Family, Wonderful Wait Staff, and my loyal Cooks will no longer be present at Cedars Springs.
So what the heck is going on at the restaurant? Owner Daniel Sikora and Chef Kyla Phomsavanh both have their sides of the story. Throughout this week, I spoke with both parties and let’s just say they’re both unhappy with each other and willing to talk at length about it. I’ll try to keep it to the basics.
“It’s been a situation that’s unfathomable,” Sikora said.
In a strange series of events, Sikora discussed how Phomsavanh seemed to be plotting a sort of restaurant mutiny leaving Sikora as a silent partner. But red flags had been waving around the chef for a while now, according to Sikora. Instead of taking the chef’s buyout option, Sikora let him go earlier this month.
“One night he summoned me to talk about the restaurant and he started going on about how he’s decided the kitchen and the dining room were running the way he wants it and that effective immediately he would be taking over the business office. He threatened to leave. Initially, I did think about letting him buy me out, but after talking with my attorney, I realized things weren’t running the way I wanted and I was not going to do things in any unethical fashion. I went to him on May 2 and fired him,” Sikora said.
Phomsavanh said he was trying to save the restaurant from losing money and that due to Sikora’s lack of restaurant experience and the hiring of an accountant, Thairriffic totals weren’t reflected in the restaurant.
“My role was to execute and run the business,” Phomsavanh wrote in an email. “Daniel Sikora appointed his personal friend to be the accountant for Thairrific. Ask any successful restaurant owner, if they have an accountant that is working full time in the office? They will tell you ‘No.’ We have a POS system that keeps track of everything and we already use ADP for our payroll service.”
The chef later said that if he took on those duties, it would only add a minimal amount of time to his work week.
Allegations by both parties dig far deeper into hints of unethical and even illegal practices, but ultimately, the situation looks to be about Thairriffic’s identity. Sikora’s company Crucial Pickles, LLC had taken over the restaurant, while Phomsavanh owns the website. But the Thairrific brand may simply be no more. Sikora is considering a name change to disassociate from Phomsavanh altogether.
“I am part of this community and want to be. We’ve been restaffing and we’re waiting for our liquor license, but I’ve been pleased with what’s coming out of the kitchen now,” Sikora said. “At this point, I’m maybe 75 percent leaning toward changing the name just to have a new brand.”
According to Phomsavanh, Thairriffic is already dead.
“Honestly, I can say that I couldn’t have gotten there without Daniel and it made me sad to go out this way but there is no point anymore. The restaurant is done for. It’s been dead,” Phomsavanh said.