I Have Opportunities Here Beyond What I Had Imagined
Broome County was the place where I first experienced America and would be the area that would define my career, my personal life, and my home.
Coming from Laos, where there is so much uncertainty, I found a strong Laotian community in Binghamton. Being in a foreign land was not so hard since the Laotian community was so supportive in this area. So, adjusting was actually really natural for me. Broome represented freedom and opportunity. I was willing to do the hard work to make these things come to fruition in my life, so I could grow and then share all this goodness with all those around me.
Once I graduated from Binghamton High, I decided to move to Boston. I wanted to experience the big city life. While there, I got a job at a Thai restaurant as a bus boy and in 9 years, I learned the ropes and made my way to the top – I became the head chef. This was an incredible experience and exposure since I was in a major metropolitan area. I also became a chef trainer throughout the country, training chefs on how to master Thai cuisine.
In the summers, I would come back to Broome to visit family, which is where I met my girlfriend. Our relationship blossomed, and we wanted to be together so I came back to Binghamton to start a new chapter in my life.
Back in 2004, there were really not a lot of Thai restaurants in the area, so it was challenging for me to find a job. Eventually, I got a job in a small Thai restaurant in Endicott as a cook, not a chef. Fast-forward to 2006, I had the amazing opportunity to buy the restaurant for so little it was incredible. So, I did and that is how my culinary journey in Broome really began.
I owned and ran Thai Basil until 2011. I knew I wanted a better location, I thought downtown Binghamton was perfect because of all the buzz that was happening at that time, so I sold the restaurant looking for that new opportunity. During that “waiting or looking” period, I worked in construction with my father-in-law who is a contractor to make some money. One of his clients happened to own a building on Front Street in Binghamton and offered to sell it to me for an amazing price. When we did the walk-through though, I got a bit nervous because there was no running water, no electricity, and there was a lot of work to be done. But my father-in-law convinced me that the two of us could rehab this building and said “you have to believe in yourself.” So forward we went and dove into this massive project, pounding nails, demoing, you name it we did it. We saw the opportunity.
We chose to start really small, and opened just the ground floor in March 2012 to test it out. But prior to opening, we offered free food at catering events, did a lot of Facebook marketing, and really tried to get the word of mouth, so by the time we opened our doors, we were slammed! I had no idea we would have such a response and having only planned for two cooks in the kitchen, we worked day and night non-stop. I was tired but I was excited that all of these people wanted to try my food.
This positive feedback was just the beginning. The demand kept growing so fast that it pushed us to expand by adding the bar in our basement. From there, it made sense to expand again and build a patio since we are right at the river. We wanted our customers to enjoy the beautiful scenery. And then we thought, why not expand the cuisine experience to incorporate a truly Asian-Fusion style by offering sushi and other Japanese dishes. So then came the sushi bar, which has been an absolute hit with our customers. And as we looked outside to the river from the huge windows, we thought, it just makes sense to add a second-floor deck. And so, we did.
All of the expansions that we have created have been with the intent to serve our customers in both the restaurant atmosphere and the best food experience.
It’s nice to look around and know that every nail in this place, I had a hand on it. And that all the food in this place, I’ve had my hands on it. It is very fulfilling and I’m so grateful for it all. It is amazing to think how living here in Broome County has given me opportunities beyond what I had imagined.
And at the end of the day, I get to go home to my beautiful family, only a five-minute drive, and also serve my Laotian and local community in every way I can by providing food for events, doing charity work, and really giving back to the area that has been an integral part in my growth as a chef, success in my business, and overall happy life.