Meet Thomas Nguyen of Peli Peli Restaurant Group – Voyage Houston Magazine | Houston City Guide

Today we’d like to introduce you to Thomas Nguyen.

Thomas, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am one of the co-founders of Peli Peli along with Chef Paul Friedman.

I was a former attorney and hated every minute of it. My passion was in marketing, branding and PR, and I thought that my second chance at happiness would involve owning my own business.

Chef Paul immigrated to the United States in the early Eighties, and he operated a string of successful pizza shops in Northwest Houston called Paul’s Pizza Shops.

I met Chef Paul in 2005 and knew that if I ever had the chance to open a restaurant, I would want it to be with him. As fate would have it, Chef Paul had always wanted to share the flavors of South Africa to the mainstream, and in 2009, we opened our first Peli Peli location at Vintage Park.

Today, we are about to open our fifth location which will be a Peli Peli Kitchen inside of Houston’s first 365 by Whole Foods Market in Independence Heights.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not. We almost got cast for a reality show back in 2016, and I always tease the casting director to this day that they made the mistake of a lifetime!

It seems we have experienced literally every single mistake, problem, and drama a restaurant could ever face. And if we haven’t, it certainly has felt that way. It has not gotten easier, and with every success, there are more problems.

It has been a very difficult journey for us, but we have learned a ton along the way, and I think God put us through this journey specifically to learn these lessons, all of which have helped us become better people and restaurateurs.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Peli Peli Restaurant Group – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Peli Peli is attempting to help define “South African” as a legitimate food category. We have fine-dining (Peli Peli) and fast casual (Peli Peli Kitchen) concepts that help us reach to bring our melting pot of flavors to as many people as possible.

Chef Paul has created a menu that includes traditional South African fare such as bobotie, biltong, boerewors and sosaties with American dishes like steak, lamb chops and sea bass with a South African twist.

We are proud of Peli Peli becoming more of a celebration of diversity in food rather than just a “South African restaurant”. Our menu includes spices, marinades and flavors that represent countries all over the World because what makes South African amazing is its makeup of people and cultures, just like America.

We are proud that Peli Peli is rated top 10 in Houston on both Tripadvisor & Yelp, not just for the ranking, but for what it means. To us, it means we live in a city that appreciates and embraces multiculturalism and diversity and we are proud of that.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Peli Peli Kitchen opens inside of Houston’s first Whole Foods Market 365 concept in Independence Heights on August 22. It’s a huge opportunity and partnership for us, and it really makes us feel all of the trials and tribulations we have experienced over the years will be worth it.

Chef Paul helped bring in another fellow South African, Ryan Stewart of Mozambik fame (from Johannesburg, South Africa), to assist in the development of our Peli Peli Kitchen concept and to help get it ready for franchising opportunities in 2019.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 8560 Katy Freeway, #200
    Houston, Texas 77024
  • Website:,
  • Phone: 281-257-9500
  • Email:

Peli Peli Bar20180614 121309 paul IMG 1168 galleriamainpic DSC 4508 Peli Peli Kitchen Image by Ellie Sharp DSC 4474 Peli Peli Kitchen Image by Ellie Sharp capetownskilletChanImage Credit:
Ellie Sharp, Chan Do, Luke Chang

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