International Rochester: Wong's Cafe - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

International Rochester: Wong's Cafe

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ROCHESTER (KTTC) -- Throughout the week, KTTC continues to explore the international community in Rochester.

Owner of Wong's Cafe, Phala Nhean, works 90 hours a week.

More than half the time, he's in the kitchen cooking.

The Chinese restaurant's been around since 1952 but Nhean's story begins in 1983 when he started as a dishwasher.

"I work so hard and my boss appreciate it and he made me a cook," Nhean said.

Food wasn't always a means of entertainment but a necessity for Nhean to survive when he lived in Cambodia.

"We all so hungry, always hungry. We saw a lot of people die in front of us. A lot of people die without food," Nhean said.

From 1975 to 1979 the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot took over the country by force, demanding that all the Khmer people be uneducated.

At 18-years-old, Nhean was sent to work on a rice farm.

"I saw the bird fly around and oh, the bird fly around free. So I want to be a bird instead of a human being," Nhean recalled.

Nhean chose freedom and escaped to Thailand on foot in his twenties, eventually coming to Rochester and working at Wong's Cafe.

Soon after Nhean's promotion from dishwasher to cook, he became head cook, and then the owner in 2007.

"It's awesome. He's a great boss. I love working for him. By far, he's one of my favorite bosses I've ever had to work for," said Sovanna Ponn, an employee at Wong's Cafe.

This is Nhean's fifth year running Wong's Cafe.

"I'm so proud of myself. I never thought I could go this far but my dream come true," Nhean said.

Wong's Cafe is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

And Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The most popular dish is the Chicken Chow Mein.

 

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