What is pastrami?


What is pastrami? That was the question of the day at the Pattaya City Expats Club meeting on Sunday, July 26, when the guest speaker was Sean Gregory of the Pastrami on Rye & American Pizza Factory. He mentioned that the origins of pastrami can be traced back to Romanian Jews in Eastern Europe. It was introduced to the US during the 19th century. Pastrami was originally made as a way to preserve meat and was not made famous as a sandwich until the 20th century when the Jewish delis in America were booming.

Sean described Pastrami as usually being made from beef but can also be made from turkey or pork. Raw meat is first brined in a solution either by being fully submersed in the brining solution or injected for instant cure. At Pastrami on Rye, they inject Sean’s father’s “secret” brining solution into the meat. The brined meat is then partially dried, seasoned (“rubbed” with herbs and spices), then smoked and steamed. It can be hand sliced while hot and juicy, or it can be cooled and then sliced for a more even pile on a sandwich.

MC Roy Albiston introduces the PCEC’s speaker Sean Gregory to talk about his restaurant Pastrami on Rye & American Pizza Factory.

Sean said he came to Thailand five years ago, expecting to just teach, but was immediately offered a job as a restaurant manager. He soon came to the conclusion that “there are no other truly authentic American style delis or sandwich shops, and no commercial producers of authentic pastrami or kosher style corned beef in Thailand.” So he and his father decided to fill that niche in Pattaya; his father’s passion is cooking, and Pastrami and Rye uses his father’s recipes. Sean’s passion is making people happy with good food.

About two years ago, they started with a basic menu of deli sandwiches and pizzas: pastrami, corned beef, Reuben, Philly cheese steak, thin crust and pan style pizzas. Because Sean was still working a day job, delivery was the only way you could get one of their sandwiches or pizzas…and that was only from 7pm – 10pm.

After 8 months of hard work, sweat, a few beers, and a bunch of satisfied customers, they were able to open up their first location to the public, a small shop on Jomtien Beach Road. “At first, we were excited if we had 12 visitors a day,” said Sean, “and 1,500 baht was a good day.” But soon they were so successful that they were able to move to their current location in the most active area in Jomtien, along the main strip of Thappraya Road.

Sean Gregory obviously enjoys telling his PCEC audience about how Pastrami on Rye came about and introduced New York deli style sandwiches to the Pattaya market.

Sean offered some keys to success for anyone who is contemplating opening a restaurant in Pattaya: First, a vast experience in the food & beverage business is essential. Sean is only 34 years old, but has 20 years of restaurant and management experience, including being a corporate multi-unit manager for a franchise corporation. Next, you need sufficient capital for development and to see you through the trying times. You must have a niche product with very good to great quality. You must engage customers through social media and a modern and updated website, but the best advertisement is by word of mouth.

A “generally knowledgeable” staff is also essential. Sean said that doesn’t mean they have to know everything about every item on the menu, but they must be trained to say, “I don’t understand, could you please repeat that.” On the other hand, the owner must be flexible, and able to accept cultural differences.

He also addressed some common misconceptions about the restaurant business in Thailand. The first one is this: “You need to keep the prices low in order to draw in more customers” – False. There is a huge difference between real value and perceived value. Customers who have a false perception of a restaurant’s value are not the kind of customers that will keep you in business. Customers who understand real value and quality will visit over and over again and spread the word… Don’t compromise, ever!

MC Roy Albiston presents the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation to Sean Gregory for his presentation on how Pastrami on Rye brought a New York style deli to Pattaya.

The second misconception is that “You need to make farang food ‘Thai Style’ and in smaller portions in order to appeal to the Thai customer base” – False. It is true that capturing the Thai market is essential for long term growth of your restaurant in Thailand. However, the average Thai customer is glad to have money to spend at unique and popular restaurants. They can get cheap Thai style food anywhere. They are looking for a truly authentic product and a good dining experience. If you don’t meet their expectations, they will spread the word and you won’t be successful.

Sean said it’s also not necessary to serve Thai food. “Bring your Thai friends to Pastrami on Rye,” he said. “I guarantee they’ll find something they like.” If not the deli sandwiches, then the cheese cake or the variety of pizzas – or maybe the authentic New York bagels, baked fresh daily.

Pastrami on Rye is open from 7 am to 10 pm daily, and they deliver from 11 am to 10 pm. The beverage menu also includes American craft beers. They also serve American breakfasts from 7 am to 11 am, but they are hoping to expand those hours before long. They are also planning to have a deli counter inside the shop, so customers can buy meats to take home.

Member Ron Hunter interviews Sean Gregory about his presentation to the PCEC. The video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7fdj1G31_w.

For more information about Pastrami on Rye, including their full menu, visit their website http://www.pastramionryethailand.com/. Also visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pastramionryethailand.

After the Sean’s presentation MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Judith Edmonds to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.

PCEC members appreciate the New York style bagels with cream cheese that Sean Gregory brought for PCEC members and guests enjoy.