Chef Pok Choeichom has an exotic name befitting his mastery of exotic cuisine. But he is more of a local than many Outer Bankers. Originally from Bangkok, Thailand, Choeichom moved to the barrier islands in 1985 at age 8.
He has since carved out a reputation as a creative chef and artful restaurateur.
His talent should be no surprise to those who know his uncle, Jimmy Ngeonjuklin, the owner of the beloved Thai Room restaurant in Kill Devil Hills, which opened 33 years ago. Ngeonjuklin brought Choeichom to the Outer Banks, and Chef Pok, as everyone knows him, learned the restaurant business at his uncle’s knee.
He then went on as a young man to hone his trade in New York City at the famed Le Cirque Restaurant. Later, he added his artistry to Outer Banks establishments Carolina Blue and Millie’s Diner. In 2013, he spent some time as sous chef at the Trump International Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. (“I really only saw Ivanka,” he says of Ivanka Trump. “She was nice.”)
In his latest venture, Choeichom celebrated the June 10 opening of his latest venture, Single Fin Bistro Bar & Grill, a new Asian fusion bistro and bar in Nags Head that embodies Choeichom’s appreciation for beautiful presentation, innovative cuisine and the best ingredients.
The restaurant is at 2424 South Croatan Highway at milepost 10.5 in Nags Head. The menu features everything from Thai steamed mussels and salmon egg (Ikura) to seared airline chicken breast and Nags Head jumbo lump crabcake. The bistro also serves fresh soups and salads, sandwiches, burgers and desserts.
The words “artist” and “chef” are often paired in descriptions of his approach to food, but Choeichom sees cooking as inherently creative.
“All chefs are artists,” he says matter-of-factly during a break in preparations for opening day at his new restaurant.
Single Fin features regional American food with an Asian twist, and sushi is one of the specialties, Choeichom says. Local seasonal produce and fresh Outer Banks seafood will be used as much as possible to support the community, an important melding of his philosophy in food and business.
Three years ago, Choeichom, along with his mother, Aung, and his younger brother, Art Maliyam, opened Pok’s Art Asia Fusion, a take-out eatery in Kitty Hawk. Maliyam is also his partner in Single Fin.
Before Pok’s Art, Choeichom was executive chef at the Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills for eight years.
Choeichom, 40, is engaged to marry and is the father of a 2 ½- year old son. The family enjoys traveling, as he did with his family when he was growing up. Their most recent trips have been to Napa Valley and Big Sur in California, and Disney World in Florida. A visit to Thailand, he says, is planned for when his son is a little older.
In his spare time on the Outer Banks — the little he has — Choeichom enjoys surfing.
“You have to love what you do with this business,” he says. “You spend 70- to 80 hours a week at work.”