In this episode of “Behind The Counter,” your host Andy Didorosi sits down with Courtney Henriette, one of three business partners (Brad Greenhill and Philip Kafka are the other two) behind the Corktown-based Thai-inspired restaurant, Katoi.
The eatery’s origins go back a couple of years. Courtney says she and Brad were introduced by a mutual friend who owns Two James Distillery–located near Katoi’s current location. Two James was in need of a food component and Courtney and Brad decided to carry out an admittedly impulsive idea to buy a food truck. Courtney says she just wanted to continue throwing “weird events,” and “Brad was doing pop-up dinners and knew he wanted a restaurant but didn’t know the trajectory.” Two months into feeding patrons at Two James, both Brad and Courtney quit their day jobs to focus on making and serving food in their truck. “We had no idea life could move beyond that,” Courtney says. Little did they know, life was about throw a third person into the equation that would indelibly change things.
Courtney says she and Brad met Philip Kafka when he purchased a building–the current home of Katoi– and the three decided to join forces. However, before they could start operating out of their new location, it needed some work. This is what led Brad and Courtney to temporarily move their operation to Ann Arbor. Courtney says the Ann Arbor location lasted about seven months and when it came time to head back to Corktown, several employees actually moved from Ann Arbor to continue working at Katoi’s permanent location on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Courtney says she still finds time to throw the occasional pop-up event, and continues to see something special in the nomadic and transient nature of transforming a random location into an experience.
Courtney says some things have changed over the last year, the primary thing being a functional kitchen in a location that feels like home, while other elements have stayed the same, like the positive relationships between the restaurant’s three owners. Courtney says she thinks this is because “we all have such dynamic interests…it works out really well.”
The restaurant’s name is actually a Thai word meaning “ladyboy.” And, as far as the different contributions she and Brad make to the space, Courtney says it’s in their respective feminine and masculine energies that the tension and magic of Katoi is created. Courtney says the name Katoi was chosen because they liked the way the word sounded, but as the restaurant evolves, she says it feels more and more appropriate.
Throughout this interview additional topics discussed include space analogies, Instagram, music, tie-dye, papaya salad, Billy Blanks and bolo ties.