Senae Thai Bistro Closes After an Inspiring Five Years
Owner Dee Buizer is extremely grateful to the Tucson community with which she shared her art and passion these past few years.
By Mikayla Mace Kelley | July 28, 2021
TUCSON, Ariz. – Tucked in the heart of downtown is Senae Thai Bistro, a restaurant that raised the bar for Thai cuisine in Tucson. This week, it closed its doors permanently, but not without leaving its mark on the city that its owner passionately served for the past five years.
When owner Dee Buizer opened Senae Thai Bistro in July 2016, her mission was to demonstrate that Thailand boasts a high level of authentic, beautiful cuisine.
She describes her hometown Bangkok as a true melting pot. Bangkok is Thailand's capital, and its central location has resulted in a blending of cultures and food traditions from surrounding provinces. The city inspires her own cooking.
"I've accomplished what I've set out to do," Buizer said, "which is to demonstrate to the people of Tucson – home to one of the only two UNESCO Cities of Gastronomyin the U.S.– that a more refined, genuine Thai cuisine in an upscale ambiance is possible."
Buizer opened her first restaurant in Berkeley, California in 1987. She has since opened various restaurants throughout the years in each city that she has lived including San Francisco, Bethesda (in Maryland) and Scottsdale.
In 2017, just one year after opening, Senae Thai Bistro was awarded the Thai SELECT honor by the Thai Ministry of Commerce and Trade, which recognizes Thai restaurants around the world for their authenticity and quality. The following year, Buizer was one of 32 chefs from a pool of nearly 20,000 Thai restaurants around the world to be invited to Thailand's largest Asian Food Expo.
"Dee's food is beautiful," said her husband Jim Buizer, "The reason is because the enjoyment starts with the eyes, then the aroma, then the flavor. That's what makes her cooking stand out. She designs every detail."
Her passion goes beyond food.
Buizer has given back to the community through multiple initiatives including donating meals to local doctors and nurses during the height of the pandemic and promoting sustainability by sourcing fresh ingredients locally. For example, through a partnership with the University of Arizona Community and School Gardens Program, the children at Manzo Elementary School grew the herbs and Asian vegetables Buizer served in many of her dishes.
Buizer is also grateful for what the community has given back to her: "I am deeply grateful for the Downtown Tucson Partnership," she said. "Everyone involved has been very supportive from day one. They especially stepped up during the pandemic by supporting local businesses. We benefitted greatly from the excellent work of this group."
"We're going to miss Chef Dee and the amazing downtown food experience she's offered Tucson the past several years. Chef Dee's 30 plus years of experience combined with the freshest ingredients and excellent presentation made Senae Thai Bistro a destination for high-quality Thai cuisine. We want to congratulate Dee on her well-deserved retirement, and we thank her for everything she's done for our community," said Zach Baker, deputy director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.
"It's been a pleasure having Senae Thai as a tenant and we're very sad to see them go," said Chuckie Duff, the landlord of the building housing Senae Thai. "Dee's culinary skills and understanding of true hospitality will be sorely missed in Tucson."
Buizer plans to stay in Tucson and hopes to get some rest before figuring out what her next adventure will be.
"I am so appreciative of the support from my loyal patrons who have supported me these past five years and who understood that this is more than business; It's my passion and art."
If you're holding an unused gift card purchased since June 2020, please email gift card number, your name and contact info to Senaethai2@gmail.com for a refund once the gift card number and the amount have been correctly verified. A refund is not guaranteed. Senae Thai Bistro/Chef Dee is held harmless for unverifiable/unconfirmed gift card number & balances.