Action films, Thai rock music, and miniature cooking are three things founder and chef Ploydao Theeravech does in her free time. The latter inspired a full fledged business, Le Petit Restaurant—using pin-sized cooking utensils to concoct Lilliputian dishes for us giants. In the four months since opening, the shop has garnered interest from kids and adults alike with a queue fully booked until February, 2024. Using the language of food to connect with people, Ploydao sat down with BK Magazine to speak about her passion project.
How did you get into collecting miniatures? 
When I was young, my mother liked to collect tiny trinkets, and she’d often pass them down or buy miniature toys for me, especially cooking sets. I think many people grew up playing with these things or molding clay into miniature food. When I grew up, my interest became more specific. I mostly collect food and cooking-related items because that’s what I’m more into. I hardly throw any of my collection away and I still have a kitchenette toy set from my childhood on display in the restaurant.
What made you decide to pivot from collecting to cooking?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking with and for other people. Having been interviewed for my collectibles and having directed a mini series featuring edible miniatures for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, I have an idea of how to present the dishes. Through the years I’ve received some curious questions about this niche hobby. So I was inspired to take the miniatures out of the box, create some dishes, and have people actually try them out and play with my collection. 
Where do you source these tiny utensils for the restaurant?
Since I’ve been collecting from a young age, I actually had a lot of utensils ready to go. The miscellaneous decorations you see throughout the shop are souvenirs from abroad, toys from gachapon machines, and DIY projects. The kitchen structure here was constructed with the help of my interior designer friend. “Bigger” pieces of furniture like the fridge—made from actual stainless steel—is a custom order from Japan. The mini light fixture, which can be turned on and off, is from the US. The ceramic plates and glasses are ordered from Thai sellers. If you know where to look, there’s definitely someone doing miniature art somewhere. And It’s a lot easier to find these communities now that we have social media.
How did you pick out this location?
In the workshop scene, there’s a culture of hosting events in private spheres like in the organizer’s home, airbnb, apartments... So I wanted a compact space that’s quite private. The one that I ended up renting is an empty small room. It doesn’t look like a living space. The floor plan kind of guides the eye toward the kitchen and window area. If you peek outside, there’s a lot of greenery and the vibe is very much like visiting a friend’s place. 
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I’m very inspired by Japanese miniature artists, especially Tanaka Tomo who’s part of why I want to create realistic edible miniatures in the first place. Even though his work isn’t edible, they’re incredibly life-like, filled with details and textures. I’ve also been to some of these Japanese miniature exhibitions, it was all white-walls with a couple of pieces across the room. Everyone was walking around with magnifying glasses and it was so wholesome. 
What’s the process for creating courses?
Coming up with a recipe isn’t so tricky because I already know some recipes off the top of my head from years of cooking. Because the creations are so small, when I design the menu I’ll try to highlight the dish’s key flavors and characteristics. Something that’s instantly recognizable. That’s partly why I chose to do Japanese food first. The challenging part of the job is figuring out what kind of food will look realistic when downsized. For example, chicken wings and rice—formed one grain at a time—are incredibly difficult. How are you going to create a small version of that? So I try to avoid them. 
Is it more difficult to cook miniatures than life size food?
The food preparation process itself is quite similar to normal size food. Stuff like broccoli and golden needle mushroom, I just have to chop it as small as possible. I also use miniature cooking utensils to control the portion and temperature. You can’t use a normal sized pot to boil tiny ingredients, they’ll just disintegrate! I’d say it’s definitely more time consuming to cook miniature food because I try to make it as realistic as possible. I also try to make everything look presentable because it’s a chef’s table.
So far, how’s the customer’s reaction been?
A lot of people have expressed that coming here is like entering another world, they feel very relaxed. My acquaintances were the first supporters, so the food was geared toward adults. Even the cooking tools are real materials you’d find in the kitchen like glass and sharp knives. Surprisingly, I received a lot of younger customers. So I had to adjust the flavors and add some safety precautions to accompany the children. I’ve seen some criticisms about the pricing, but the cooking supplies and utensils are life-long collections. Some of the pieces are from abroad, and overall it costs just as much as a standard sized restaurant. 
Are there any plans to expand the restaurant or the menu in the future?
For now I’m not planning on hiring additional staff and expanding the shop just because I want to be able to tell the story first hand. I’m still managing the booking systems and I enjoy hearing the interest from prospective customers. I think the biggest change would be allocating more time toward the restaurant, finding even more ways for customers to participate beyond cooking, maybe molding tiny ceramic plates and other trinkets. 
Give us a sneak peek of the next menu.
I’m planning to change up the menu every couple of months. So in November, we’ll have a Thai cuisine line-up, but I’ll keep the flavor quite mild for the children. I’d like to try out fine dining as well but it would take a lot more preparation, and there isn’t a standard flavor that comes to mind when you think of “fine dining.” That’s something I’d like to figure out. 
What should customers take out of this experience?
There’s something for everyone. I make sure not to overcrowd each session as I want everyone to feel comfortable in the space and really get the chance to see the food preparation process. If the parents aren’t really into the concept, there are other ways to involve them and create some family time. For example, I like to ask the children to help mix the okonomiyaki [Japanese pizza] batter and let the parents fry it up. I want people to feel a sense of peacefulness and focus on the task at hand. Playing with miniatures is such a relaxing and meditative experience. I want everyone who comes through the doors to find pleasures in the little things.