Meet the MD: Jeab Prapunwong of Mantra Thai

Meet the MD: Jeab Prapunwong of Mantra Thai

Jeab Prapunwong moved to Newcastle from Thailand in 1997 to study law, but ended up working in the restaurant business. After opening his first restaurant in 2007, Jeab realised his dream of owning his own Thai restaurant, and is now the MD of Mantra Thai on Newcastle's Quayside.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

As managing director and owner of Mantra Thai Dining my role is to deliver direction to my team, setting clear goals and acting as an inspirational leader to motivate my staff. 

What is it the company does?

We are a family-run, authentic Thai restaurant offering traditional Thai food on Newcastle’s Quayside, catering for anything from small, intimate get-togethers to events for 150 plus people. Our mantra is ‘food is an art, cook from the heart’ – our passion is to show our hearts through our food and always provide service with a smile.


Where did you start your career?

I worked part time as a waiter at Waterside Palace, the Chinese restaurant which occupied the premises before Mantra opened. I knew even then that the building was special and it has remained close to my heart ever since.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far

I moved to Newcastle in 1997 to study law, when I worked part time at Waterside Palace as a waiter. This is where I met my wife, as her father owned the restaurant. It was he who inspired me to join the restaurant industry and, with his encouragement, I opened my first restaurant, Buffet King in the Metrocentre in 2007. It has always been my dream to open a Thai restaurant and when my father-in-law informed me that he intended to retire and close Waterside Palace, I knew that this would be the perfect location for me to realise my dream and continue the family legacy. So in 2014, Mantra Thai opened to the public – the rest, as they say, is history!


What do you believe makes a great leader?

Setting a good example, showing discipline, motivation and confidence are all key. I try to do all of these things in order to get the best from my team and to ensure our diners have a high quality experience.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Mantra opened its doors in October 2014 and as with any new business, the fear of the unknown in terms of the reception we would receive from diners during that crucial first year of business is tough. We’ve now been open for 18 months and have developed a loyal customer base during this time and continue to welcome new diners through our doors. 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job? 

I’m a keen badminton player and member of Elmfield Badminton Club. I also find that scenic walks with my wife help me to relax and switch off from any stresses I may be dealing with.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was growing up in Thailand I wanted to be a soldier and represent my country, doing something good for other people.


Any pet hates in the workplace?

Negative thinking. The benefits which come from having a positive attitude are endless.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

In five years’ time I’d like Mantra to be a landmark restaurant in Newcastle, and to be widely known as one of the best places to eat in the city. We are currently looking to develop our connections with the North East business community and have recently launched the Mantra Business Club, offering members a range of privileges as well as invitations to quarterly networking events.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Put your heart and soul into your work. Passion and hard work help to get you to where you want to be.