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Chef Dee Buizer at work…or is that wok?!

It’s doubtful that Garee Gai, Tua Pik Khing and other staples of Thai cuisine are on the kitchen menu at St. Mary’s Hospital, but 100 hospital employees recently enjoyed an authentic taste of Thailand without stepping foot off hospital grounds.

They have Chef Dee Buizer to thank, but her donation last week of 100 meals to hospital workers in the intensive care, emergency, cleaning and sanitation, and other departments was simply a manifestation of her own gratitude for the men and women risking their lives on COVID’s front lines.

Buizer’s contributions were part of a national call to action among select Thai restaurants that are certified by Thai Select USA, a Thai government program that issues seals of approval to restaurants meeting certain authenticity standards. The group recently challenged its members to participate in a grassroots give-back initiative called Thai Food for Heroes, and Buizer didn’t hesitate before firing up her wok. 

“We were thinking about giving back in this way, even before we heard about this national effort,” said Buizer, owner and executive chef at Senae Thai Bistro, 63 E. Congress Street. “We felt like it was something we really needed to do.”

Thai Select USA encouraged their certified restaurants to contribute food to local workers of their choice, so long as they donated a minimum of 50 meals. Buizer’s commitment immediately jumped to 100 meals to feed additional workers in several departments at the neighborhood hospital located two miles from her restaurant.

While some may suggest that a donation of spring roll boxes may have been the most efficient strategy, Buizer was a little more thoughtful when deciding what dishes to serve to hospital employees. She ended up with deliveries of Garee Gai, a dish of julienned chicken and potatoes simmered in yellow curry and coconut milk, as well as Tua Pik Khing, a vegetarian dish of wok-fried green beans, tofu, and garlic in a Thai curry sauce.

My fellow foodies will agree that this is what giving back gastronomically looks like. 

“My husband, children, and I have been so very blessed in our lives, and sharing the blessing is who we are and how we are,” she said. When you consider the rich traditions of Thailand, that sentiment seems to define its people and why the Thai Food for Heroes program is such a natural connection to their culture.

“If you’ve ever been to Thailand, you know that Thai people make you feel like a king in their country,” she said. “They’re very friendly, open-armed, welcoming, and love to serve; that’s just our nature.”

Both of the dishes that were donated to hospital workers are currently on Senae Thai Bistro’s menu, as well as other authentic symbols of the region from traditional noodle dishes to steak, duck, salmon, short ribs, soups, salads, and more. The newest summer entree to arrive is grilled lamb chops with a green papaya salad and sticky rice.

Senae Thai Bistro is operating under its summer hours schedule, Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. Dining room service has been temporarily suspended and take-out orders may be placed through their website, SenaeThai.com.

Buizer believes that the best way to introduce people to Thai culture is through its food, and after speaking with her last week, it was clear that her food has therapeutic properties that go far beyond merely satisfying hunger. If you have any questions, just ask someone wearing a St. Mary’s Hospital badge.


Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.