COCA and Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide is meeting passenger demand for real Asian food in travel hubs, and aims to offer dishes that are so full of flavour they will attract customers from all around the globe. Mark Lane spoke to Managing Director Trevor MacKenzie about the continued growth of the Mango Tree Kitchen concept in airports.
The story begins with MacKenzie moving to Vancouver in 1988 and setting up a contracting business with his brother. Destiny intervened when a chance stint bartending at night [to help MacKenzie pay for an expensive apartment he had rented overlooking the stunning seafront in Vancouver] introduced him to the buzz of the food & beverage business.
The venue was a fledgling fine dining restaurant called Blue Water Café & Raw Bar, which went on to become known as one of Vancouver’s premier restaurants. He was an instant hit in his bartending role and later shunned promotions to management level. Instead, he became the highest grossing sales waiter at the venue, a status he holds to this day. “Back then I prided myself on giving people memorable experiences, and that has been my mantra in developing the Mango Tree restaurant business,” MacKenzie says.
The now-retired Phanphensophon, the host of a popular cooking show on Thai television, was the second generation owner of the family Thai COCA Restaurant business, which had opened its first dining venue in 1957. A second brand, Mango Tree, opened its first restaurant doors in the heart of Bangkok in 1994. The pair instantly bonded and later Phanphensophon gave MacKenzie the hospitality industry opportunity he had been searching for.
MacKenzie’s love of the COCA and Mango Tree cuisine and his education into what makes great, authentic Thai, and Asian food, began that day, courtesy of the man he describes as his “intuitive and visionary mentor”. According to MacKenzie, Asian food is rapidly growing in popularity around the world because it is “full of flavour and not so one-dimensional”. He adds: “It is based on fresh ingredients and not the processed foods you often find in the US and Europe in particular.
“Although the likes of McDonald’s still have their place in modern day dining, more and more people are seeking healthier foods, and authentic Asian food like ours fits that bill as it is generally ‘farm to table’ and cooked fresh. It’s not often you can find food like this in airports in particular and we are starting to make big inroads into changing that.”
“I prided myself on giving people memorable experiences, and that has been my mantra in developing the Mango Tree restaurant business.”
MacKenzie says Mango Tree has ambitious plans to expand in new travel locations. “We have our eye on more major international hubs in Asia and Europe, and we would really like to land in North America very soon,” he explains. “You will see a few more airport openings in Asia this year and I am confident we will secure our first opening in a major European airport this year. We have many irons in the fire.”