Thitinart Boriboon arrived in California to start a certification program at UCLA on March 16, 2020, just as all classes went virtual.

“March 20 the classes were moved online, and I realized that I didn’t need to be in LA,” the Fountain City resident said. “So, I reached out to my family here in Knoxville. I thought I would eventually move back to LA, but then I met more Thai people here and stayed.

“Before I moved here from Bangkok, I didn’t know how to cook,” Boriboon said. “I missed Thai food a lot, so I learned to cook.”

When Boriboon completed her program, she had a work visa that allowed her to put the marketing and media planning experience and training to good use.

Thitinart Boriboon, in her new AppeThai food truck at SouthSide Garage, Oct. 2, 2021.

“I have wanted to have my own business for years and I liked my food, so I thought ‘Why don’t I share this with friends and family here?’” she said. After enjoying the local food truck parks, Boriboon decided to launch AppeThai Knox, serving the appetizers and meals she has perfected.

Boriboon found the perfect truck in Montana — 2,700 miles away — that fit her tight budget. “It had the essentials, the fridge, work table and sink, but the previous owner sold mostly noodle dishes and I wanted to fry stuff and do more over rice-based dishes,” Boriboon said. “I put in the store and all of the new appliances. I did not want to invest a lot, so it took me a lot of tears.”