A native of Thailand, Mon (Duangkamol) Sutthiwari, grew up enjoying the culinary traditions of Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Like many cultures around the world, food is at the center of every gathering and this was true in the Sutthiwari household. Much of her life was spent around the table with family and friends enjoying the flavors of Thai-Asian cuisine.
After graduating from college in Thailand, Mon moved to Eugene in 2001 to attend the University of Oregon to further her education in linguistics. Mon quickly fell in love with Eugene and the people, but she longed for the flavors of home and found herself searching for the food she loved. She discovered Chao Praya, a small local Thai restaurant, which provided the food she longed for. To help supplement her income she soon took a job at the restaurant and it was there that she began to discover her passion for food and people.
After completing her degree in 2004, she helped open Tararin Thai Cuisine where she was responsible for the front of the house; hiring and training staff, developing and organizing restaurant procedures, waiting tables, and running the floor.
In 2009, Mon decided it was time to venture out on her own. She teamed up with Tim Murff, a longtime resident of Eugene with a background in media and marketing, to develop Sabai, an intimate café and bar. "Eugene has such a wonderful history of progressive restaurants and bakeries. We wanted that tradition to spill over to Oakway Center," Mon says. "It was exciting to have a chance to share what I love about my culture with the people of Eugene. But of course, with a Northwest twist."
Since moving to Eugene in 1971, Tim Murff has called Eugene home.
After working in media for over 35 years, Tim decided to partner with Mon and open Sabai. "I can't say it has been a life-long dream, but it certainly has been a life-long conversation. Food has been a central theme in my life," Tim says. "My mother and my late wife, Nina, were exceptional cooks who brought such joy to our table. This joy has been the inspiration to my passion and fascination with the joy of cooking."
Having traveled to over 40 countries around the world, Tim has had the priviledge of experiencing many diverse cultures and food. "Food is often our first introduction to a different culture. It is a bridge. Not only does it connect us with family, friends, and community, but it connects us with different cultures other than our own.
As a producer, director and designer, Tim is known for his finely tuned eye and intutive vision. Sabai's welcoming chic interior reflects that strong sense of design. "Sabai is really a reflection of both Mon and I. All the way down to the rolled napkins on the reclaimed Douglas fir tables," Tim says. "Sabai describes a place as being comfortable and relaxing. We tried to create a space that was natural and uncomplicated, yet warm, striking and beautiful."