From Thailand to New York to Statesboro: Kamolwan Kawpunna's Journey

From Thailand to New York to Statesboro: Kamolwan Kawpunna's Journey

Noelle Walker

Kamolwan Kawpunna, also known as Amy, is the owner and head chef of Coconut Thai Cuisine.
Kawpunna was born in Pattani, Thailand. After graduating high school, she moved to Bangkok, Thailand and got a B.A. in pharmacies. She then came to the United States to study to become bilingual in English.
After graduating from a community college, Kawpunna transferred to New York City College of Technology to study hospitality management. However, Kawpunna wanted to more money.

She said, “New York City has high expenses, so I tried to work as a server to make some more money while I studied as a student.”

Kawpunna knew she wanted to be a chef when she started to cook for her family. During the holidays, she would throw parties. As she saw people eating her food, she realized that making other people happy through her cooking made her happy.

Photography by Hannah Hedden

In 2013, Kawpunna opened up Noodies Thai Kitchen, her first restaurant,  in Midtown Manhattan (New York). The city life was a little too busy for Kawpunna, so she moved to Statesboro, Georgia because she wanted to be able to spend more time with her three kids.

She said, “In the big city it’s so crowded and busy, and I don’t have time for them. I worked 18 hours a day, and I [didn’t] have time to spend time with my kid…That’s why I decided to come [here].”

The restaurant was designed by an interior designer who currently lives in New York, which also happens to be Kawpunna’s best friend, Wirat Assawamahasakda. He’s designed around 35 restaurants already, and each one is unique. Kawpunna says that “no one can copy him.”

Photography by Hannah Hedden

Coconut Thai Cuisine’s menu is based off of foods in Thailand. Ingredient wise, she has had to adapt in Statesboro. Kawpunna orders ingredients from Atlanta Asian Imports (AAF Imports). This company gets ingredients from Thailand and then ships it to other places through Atlanta. They also have homemade gluten free sauce and special chefs vegan sauce.
Photography by Hannah Hedden

Kawpunna said, “Coconut Thai Cuisine is designed to entice the five taste senses. Its unique flavors depend on certain ingredients native to Southeast Asia, and the hottest chillies in the world to make an adventure out of your dining experience. We have made a special effort to keep Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) out of our kitchen.”

Kawpunna’s favorite menu items are the Pineapple Fried Rice Meat Combo and Patai Shrimp.
Coconut Thai Cuisine is located in 7 College Plaza, and you can visit their website here for more information on them!   

Photography by Hannah Hedden