Today we’d like to introduce you to Palita Sriratana.
Palita, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today
I worked in healthcare and medical research for seven years, and took a leap for my friends music blog, GoWhereHipHop, that was rapidly growing at the time. Unsure of what to do next, I started taking MBA classes at the University of Chicago and worked the line of my favorite restaurants at the time, Au Cheval and Nico Osteria. I had to knock on doors to get those jobs. I grew up cooking with my grandma and aunts, but I had zero professional culinary experience. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
Something always drew me to hospitality, but I didn’t know what to do with it yet. I met Bernie Burns, CEO and founder of B2 Aviation, through a mutual friend. He was looking for someone to help him create a customizable inflight beverage service to enhance the customer experience. I jumped on board and guided the development and marketing of the product. Since then, I have become the Creative Director for B2 Aviation. In addition to private aircraft charter, now we utilize our access to hangars, jets, and helicopters to create unique events and brand activations.
In my free time, I cook. I started posting Snapchats of my cooking and started getting flooded with questions about what I was making and how my friends could recreate that dish. After sending out the recipe for my Basil Chicken (Gai Kaprow) a few dozen times, I decided to upload it to my own site. I realized how difficult Asian grocery stores were to navigate, so I started writing about that too. I wanted to demystify Thai cooking for my friends and that is how Hi Palita was born. Hi Palita is my creative outlet and has picked up more steam than I ever anticipated.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was rejected by medical school twice after working in research for seven years. I threw myself into working in Entertainment PR and Chicago’s Hip Hop scene. I needed that change. Like many Asian Americans, I was under a lot of pressure to work in healthcare, but deep down I knew that wasn’t for me. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions, even though it was made for me. I became super focused on finding jobs that brought me joy and excitement. I worked press tents at Lollapalooza, Coachella, and SXSW for a few years. I met my idols and many upcoming artists that are mainstays on today’s charts. I saw what it meant to express themselves through their craft and that really resonated with me. If it wasn’t for my rejection of medical school, I would not have pursued my passion.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with you and the career you’ve charted for yourself – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
With two business partners (Bernie Burns and Tim Williams), we created Proper Cocktail Co. a handcrafted bottled cocktail service to be enjoyed inflight that no one else in the industry offers. We sought out to fill a gap between hospitality and private aviation. We’re currently looking to expand as a white label product to other jet service providers.
Hi Palita has become my own voice. Once I transitioned my cooking and photography mindset from a hobby to a brand, that’s when everything started rapidly evolving. Unknowingly at the time, I had manifested a new intent and it shows in my work. Opportunities are popping up that I didn’t even know existed, but I feel more ready than ever.
On Hi Palita, there is something for everyone, from a robust vegan section to many gluten-free recipes. Typically when I think of the label vegan, I feel like the dishes are secondary substitutions to the real thing. I worked really hard to develop recipes and dishes that are accessible to everyone without diluting its authenticity. The dishes featured are super flavorful and fresh, and I think that translates to everyone. In 2019, I will be hosting pop-ups and a supper club, so please come find me and join the fun.
There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Mentors are willing to engage with people who are focused and determined. Be those things. Keep putting yourself out there. It’s really uncomfortable at first but you get better with practice. Meetups, co-working spaces, and creative hubs such as 1871, Low Res Studios, and We Work are always hosting events. Not all networking events are great. Actually, many of them are pretty bad but keep going anyways. There is always something to take away. You learn how to present yourself to others and focus on what your intent is. It also allows you to reevaluate yourself. The energy you put out attracts the energy of other people. That will the basis of finding your network and potentially your mentor.
Look for volunteering opportunities. Find a cause that engages you. It strengthens your ties to the community while broadening your network. You’ll expose yourself to people with a common interest while doing something really fulfilling.
Which women have inspired you in your life? Why?
My mom, absolutely. She’s a total badass but I think she downplays it too much. She grew up in a river community in Thailand, studied her way into the medical school in Bangkok, and then immigrated to America in the 1970s to practice as a physician. She’s tough and has fought her way through the “boys clubs” of her time. My mom is the kindest, most generous person with I know. From her own experiences, she taught my brothers and me the non-negotiable importance of diligence and hard work. I am thankful for her lessons now that I’m older.
- Private Dinner packages start at $300
- Pop Up Dinners are $50-70/pp