The Fresno Food Expo attracts a lot of big-name foodmakers, from large-scale meat suppliers to internationally known tortilla makers. But in one corner of the Exhibit Hall on Thursday was a little-known vendor with a growing reputation.
Kong Thao has been farming in Fresno for years. He grows nearly 300 varieties of vegetables, many of which have become in demand by Los Angeles chefs and restaurants.
Thao has made a name for himself by selling his specialty Asian and American vegetables in some of the biggest Southern California farmer’s markets including Santa Monica and Torrance. That’s where LA chefs have discovered him.
“Right now, we are selling to about 40 to 50 restaurants in the LA area,” Thao said.
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And because he is so busy in Los Angeles, he isn’t at any local Fresno-area markets.
But his talents as a farmer have not gone unnoticed. He recently partnered with Vincent Ricchiuti of Enzo Olive Oil to grow the Fresno chilis used in Enzo’s new extra virgin olive oil.
“We have planted 10,000 plants that Enzo will use in their oil,” Thao said. “We are also working on a Fresno chili jam.”