Four Inane Questions with Chef Penny Mufuka
Chef Penny Mufuka is a culinary force to be reckoned with. If you’ve ever visited either of her powerhouse JoCo restaurants—Bamboo Penny’s in Leawood or KC Thai in Overland Park—you know she’s one of the hardest working restaurant owners in the metro. (We’re guessing she drinks copious amounts her famous iced Thai tea to keep her perpetually upright.)
A native of Phichit, Thailand, Chef Penny has nearly 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, and she’s famous for putting her own flavorful spin on traditional Thai dishes. (Order. Her. Pineapple. Fried. Rice.) Along with her husband Doug, the duo is often seen zipping around the dining room, greeting guests, and offering a suggestion (or two) on what to order.
We caught up with the culinary pro in between the lunch and dinner rush to ask our insipid questions.
The Pitch: Elevator, escalator, or stairs? Which one do you typically use?
Penny Mufuka: Stairs are for young people. Now that I’m older, my knees and joints hurt. When I wake up in bed in the morning, I have to decide which leg to put on the floor first by which knee/hip hurts more—so no stairs. Escalators are nice. They have them at the malls, so I use them a lot—and you can’t get trapped like in an elevator.
What’s the hottest dish you’ve ever eaten? And how hot is too hot?
Anything Thai hot is too hot for me. Working in Thai restaurants for 29 years, of course, I’ve tried lots of hot food. But nowadays, when a customer asks for a dish Thai hot, I tell them they’re on their own. I am not going to taste their food before sending it out like we chefs usually do.
Name one quirky-odd-weird thing that most people don’t know about you.
I love flowers and gardening. I do all the flower arrangements at Bamboo Penny’s and KC Thai myself.
Before the restaurant opens, people come up to me all the time while I’m on the patio at Bamboo with my straw hat, shovel, beds of flowers, and 50-pound bags of potting soil. They always ask me what landscaping company I’m with.
In your humble opinion, what’s the absolute worst color combination in the world?
Black and brown. It doesn’t match on clothes. You don’t see a brown car with black stripes. It isn’t bright and colorful—which is why I can’t think of any country flags that are brown and black. We have a pretty flag color. And so does Brazil—yellow and green!