About Chef Alex Boonphaya
Alex Boonphaya fell in love with food while playing on the streets of his native Bangkok as a young boy. His earliest childhood memories involve enjoying sizzling satay skewers and a vast array of homemade sweet Thai treats throughout his homeland, which was packed with fresh markets and street vendors at every turn.
Alex’s parents moved the family to Tampa, FL when Alex was ten in 1989, and left the curious young foodie for long hours to work multiple jobs to support themselves. As a pre-teen, Boonphaya found himself preparing dinner for his mom and dad after school. He excelled in cooking Thai cuisine, but also mastered continental dishes featuring meats, fish and poultry.
By the time Alex was fourteen, Alex landed his first job as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant near his home. The aspiring chef spent a bunch of time hanging out with the cooks, which provided him the opportunity to prepare family meal for the staff — a practice that landed him a ton of praise and encouragement to attend culinary school.
In 1996, at seventeen years of age, Alex enrolled in the prestigious Le Cordon Blue in Orlando, FL and split his time between school and cooking at his family’s newly opened Thai restaurant, Thai Hut, where he worked preparing authentic Thai specialties from 2000 – 2004.
The family opened a second location, then sold both restaurants and moved to Philadelphia with plans to open a restaurant in The City of Brotherly Love in 2006.
Alex landed a job working the graveyard shift at Philadelphia’s renowned Four Seasons Hotel under Chef Martin Hamann in 2007, and spent two years overseeing overnight room service as well as closing the hotel’s café each evening and opening it before he left each morning. “The two years I spent cooking at the Four Seasons made a man out of me,” quipped Boonphaya. “I loved working for Chef Hamann, but the overnight work caused me to be very isolated. All I did was sleep and cook. I needed to get out to enjoy life with my wife and children.”
In 2008 Alex purchased a small Chinese takeout business at 15th and Tasker Streets in South Philadelphia and converted it to Plan-Eat-Thai — a Thai takeout and delivery concept, which he ran with his family for a year before upgrading the menu and renaming the restaurant Circles.
In early 2011 the family converted into a space across the street from their South Philly kitchen into a 36-seat dining room, and began shuffling Circles’ upscale Thai dishes across the street to loyal fans intent on satisfying their Thai cuisine cravings.
In late 2011 Alex and family opened their second Circles location, a full-service restaurant that houses the kitchen and dining room in the same building at 812 N. Second Street in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood.
Philadelphia magazine awarded Circles Best of Philly honors in 2011 for “Best New Thai”, and in 2012 and 2013 for “Best Thai Restaurant”.
Alex resides in South Philadelphia with his mom, dad, wife and two sons.
Bangkok-born Chef Alex Boonphaya conceived the original Circles at 15th and Tasker Streets in South Philadelphia in 2009 with the goal of providing Philadelphia’s foodies with delicious, authentic dishes from his native Thailand.
In late 2011 Alex opened a second Circles at 812 N. Second Street in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood with a focus on changing the region’s perspective about Thai cuisine. While the original Circles purveys traditional Thai dishes, Circles in Northern Liberties offers an ever changing menu featuring progressive Thai dishes inspired by recent visits to Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and other destinations within The Land of Smiles.
Philadelphia magazine awarded Circles Best of Philly in 2011 for “Best New Thai”, and again in 2012 and 2013 for “Best Thai Restaurant”.