Chef Tommy Lai was born and raised in a small town north of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur called Rasa (which translates to ‘taste’ in Malay). He moved to New York with his family in the 1990’s after graduating from high school.
Lai apprenticed at a few different restaurants in the early years in New York including “Penang” which was then one of the first of Malaysian restaurants to take Manhattan by storm. During his formative years in New York, Lai showcased his flair for cooking Malaysian home-cooked dishes and street food , which he and his sister learned from their mother.
In 2011, he was hired by Laut, a Malaysian restaurant in Union Square to lead the kitchen. Under his stewardship, the restaurant earned a Michelin star. In December 2013, Lai opened Rasa alongside his sister, Camie Lai who is an excellent chef in her own right. The siblings intend to raise the profile of Malaysian cuisine at Rasa by introducing dishes from their homeland that are rarely seen or offered in New York.