Kana Theva Pampas Founder

Kana Theva, Founder Pampas Group of Restaurants

Kana Theva – Pampas Group of Restaraunts

In this interview, Kana Theva, founder and group managing director of the Pampas group of restaurants, shares his interest in the food and beverage industry and reveals some exciting things to come.

Tell us about the Pampas group of restaurants.

We first opened our doors in 2005 in Changkat Bukit Bintang. Now we have five restaurants under us: Pampas Reserve (Bukit Bintang), Pampas Boutique (Publika), Pampas Old Malaya (Jalan Raja Chulan), Pier 12 Seafood Tavern (Jalan Raja Chulan), and Pampas Sky Dining in Melaka. 

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?

It all started in 1998 upon graduating with a Bachelor in Business Administration. It was the peak of an economic crisis which made it tough for fresh graduates to obtain a position in the corporate world. I was lucky as one of the earliest calls was from Mandarin Oriental Hotel Kuala Lumpur which just opened its doors. I joined them as a trainee executive and was exposed to different departments. I fell in love with the food and beverage department, and enjoyed exploring their restaurants and business operation. It was enticing meeting people from all walks of life. Serving unique dishes and putting a smile on clients’ faces ignited my passion for the industry.

Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.

In my early days when we started Pampas, it was difficult to make guests understand why their steaks take a bit of time to be prepared. One day, while we were busy in the kitchen, a guest walked into the kitchen angry, wanting to know how long he had to wait for the steak. I had to come out of the kitchen and explain to him, that at Pampas everything is made and cut to order as it is prepared a la minute. We showed to him our method of preparation that ensures the quality of our steaks. Today, he is a big fan of Pampas steaks.

What’s a food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?

Every child dotes on their mother’s cooking. My favourite was my mom’s Sri Lankan-style dry fried chicken which is always cooked for lunch Sundays.

Besides that, we were frequent visitors at the golf club as my dad is a member and we often dined at their coffee house. One particular club had a very good chef, Uncle Miki, as we fondly remember him. He used to whip up a variety of dishes. His inchi cabin chicken (fried chicken) and his mamak fried noodles were always on point. And, I can’t forget his famous Hainanese chicken chop.

My family have always enjoyed a variety of food. Traveling with my family is always fun as we explore different types of cuisine together.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

The best part is looking at a satisfied customer’s face as they cut into a steak that is exactly as they wanted. That always makes my day and justifies all the long hours.

The worst time (there’s plenty, but I try not to focus on those) was when we had to close one of our restaurants a few years back. I had to fire loyal staff. It was one of the worst days for me. I try my best to not ever have to do that again.

What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?

Argentinian Angus rib eye with a glass of Malbec.

What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

Plenty, but if I have to choose, it was one day when the head chef is experimenting with some miso butter sauce, and he took a cigarette break. The sous chef added Pudu sauce accidently because he thought it was the same thing. It turned out really good, and we kept this mistake on our menu!

We’ve had staff who worked for us for three months and then just didn’t show up; they didn’t even bother to resign. We’ve also had some who didn’t show up to work because it was raining – so many unbelievable stories. I can’t wrap my head around then sometimes.

A day in the life of a managing director is…

Numbers (revenue, expenses, projection), customer service, marketing, delegating tasks, next project, current project, new menu, new wine, checking, double checking. There’s always something new. Keeping up with it is certainly not easy.

What does Kana Theva do for fun?

Spend time with my daughter and family, grocery shopping, a nice foot massage, and on occasion, hang out with my childhood buddies and friends chatting about business and leisure. The simple things.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Pampas?

When you need a good steak and wine, you know to come to us.

How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective or the way you operate?

The pandemic really turned our world upside down! Like everyone else, we also suffered, and since we are on the high-end market, our cost is high. This is worsened because not many people wanted to takeaway steak, as there’s a misconception that takeaway steak is not nice (honestly, we have 92% satisfaction from all the guest who order takeaway).

Luckily, we did have quite a high volume of tomahawk and roast beef deliveries, which helped us to survive for the time being. Still, it’s not the same without the dine-in crowd. For the first time, we had to deal with third parties for deliveries. Managing that is not easy.

We also had to adapt to quickly implement new SOPs. We had to take a hard look at the restaurants’ lay-out to make sure it is safe for the guest and the staff. We looked extra things we can do to ensure safety during service so customers feel safe when they are dining in our restaurant. It has been challenging yes, but it doesn’t mean we are giving up.

What’s something you’d like people to know about being a restaurateur as a profession?

Passion: you really don’t want to be in the industry if you don’t enjoy the dining experience, giving your best, and always having the mindset of thinking three steps ahead. You need to be ready to jump in to fix anything that is happening. It’s always long hours. It’s hard work.

What’s your view on the food/drink scene in KL?

It’s great! I love that there’s more from the younger generation taking the hospitality industry seriously, and I see the creativity that makes KL a serious contender in South East Asian F&B scene. We really do have high standards when it comes to our food and drinks.   

How has the pandemic changed you as a person?

I think after a few months into it, I gave up fighting so hard and embraced things day-to-day. I have always been a man with vision. I think ahead. I plan ahead, but that part of the brain is taking a long holiday right now. I also learned to appreciate more of the little things. My daughter is 20 months now. I do appreciate having the extra time to pamper her. 

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

Expansion! We are looking forward of the completion of our project in Dhaka. It has been halted for more than one year now due to the circumstances. We are also looking to open more Pampas in the KL area.

We are also excited to now serve Argentinian Devesa Black Angus again. It needed Halal certification, and the last time we were able to serve it was 11 years ago!

Find more interviews similar to this one with Kana Theva here. And, stay up to date with the latest food and beverage happenings in KL here.


  1. I know Pampas frozen pastries from Australia, very nice. Haven’t been to any of these in KL.

  2. Gastronomy is a very fascinating field, and I sincerely care that the pandemic does not reverse the progress that the industry has made.

  3. Been a regular customer of Pampas since 2005. Love the steaks and the Chocolate Ganache Cake. Would like to have a chat with Mr.Kana Thava about a recent experience though. 012-2295569 Allan

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.