Su-Mei Yo never tires of touting the tastes of Thailand


Su-Mei is chef/owner of the acclaimed Saffron restaurants in San Diego. She has made numerous appearances on television programs such as “Martha Stewart Living.”

Born of Chinese parents in Thailand, she came to America to attend boarding school at age 15, and worked as a social worker and as an assistant professor at San Diego State University before opening the first Thai restaurant in San Diego in 1985.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I was hired as an associate professor by my alma mater, the School of Social Work, San Diego State University, in 1979 and wanted to find a good school for my young daughter.

What makes this town special to you?

It is a beautiful and quiet town.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would repair all the badly damaged streets and potholes, and bring back the ambience of a small village including the movie theater, co-op natural food store on Pearl, and the funky bookstore/theater on La Jolla Boulevard.

Who or what inspires you?

My mother, who had no formal education and taught herself how to read and write, and who was able to send three children to college in America. She was also a natural and gifted cook who taught me to love food and cooking.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My daughter, Angela; Abraham Lincoln, because he would be a challenge to cook for; His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, king of Siam (Thailand) 1868-1910, because he would be fun to cook with; Simon de La Loubere, author of the “Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam,” a French diplomat who recorded his stay in Siam in 1691, including details about food of that period; Joseph Needlam, author of “Science and Civilisation in China,” whose one of seven volumes is devoted to Food Science of China; my favorite author, Jane Austen; Julia Child, because of her curiosity and passion on food and cooking; and Diane Sawyer, because she can eat mighty spicy food.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

Ted Kennedy’s “True Compass, A Memoir.”

What is your most-prized possession?

My mother’s granite mortar and pestle.

What do you do for fun?

Knit while watching movies starring John Wayne.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Raising my daughter, Angela.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Om — It is blessed to practice generosity.

Ma — It is blessed to practice pure ethics.

Ni — It is blessed to practice tolerance and patience.

Pa — It is blessed to practice perseverance.

Me — It is blessed to achieve concentration.

Hum — It is blessed to achieve life’s wisdom.