Chef/Owner of White Elephant Asian Fusion
“Being one of the first Lao establishments was initially challenging because many weren’t (and still aren’t) familiar with Lao cuisine. They usually compare it to Thai food, which is a fair comparison because our cuisines are similar. “
What's the name of your business and how did you come up with it?
White Elephant Asian Fusion, LLC. Elephants are the official national symbol and the spiritual makeup of Laos and Thailand. Although WE are deeply rooted in our culture, WE wanted something that was also familiar to the Western culture, where WE have been raised. White Elephant just suited both cultures perfectly.
What are your inspirations for being in the food industry?
My late grandmother was a Master Chef since back in Laos. She continued applying her culinary talents when she immigrated our family to the US as means to support her family, as a single mother. She helped launched several restaurants in the States that stood for decades, even after her passing. I am inspired by her everyday for everything I do, even outside of the culinary world.
What were some of your challenges being a Lao business?
Being one of the first Lao establishments was initially challenging because many weren’t (and still aren’t) familiar with Lao cuisine. They usually compare it to Thai food, which is a fair comparison because our cuisines are similar. However, WE continually educate customers regarding some of the differences. To us, Lao food tends to be spicier, has more unique yet delicious scents, a significant use of a variety of fresh greens and lots of Khao Niew with each meal.
What advice would you give to someone based on your experience?
Follow your passion, regardless of what industry it may be. Even if you’re unsure how others will receive it, if you believe in yourself and your products, they will see it, too. There will be challenges because entrepreneurship is never smooth sailing. However, they’re just little bumps in the road. Stay consistent and it’ll pay off. Also, take your rest as serious as you take your hustle. Although the grind is important, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself in the process. You’ll find yourself even more productive when you are able to find your balance.
What's your favorite Lao dish?
This is an unfair question because I have several favorites! LOL! To name a few, extra phet-phet and stank Lao-Style Mak Hoong with all the fixins (Kiep Moo, Khao Poon, etc.), Laap Seen (preferably the raw version with a little bitterness, tons of greens and a cold beer to accompany) and Laap Leut (Duck Blood Laap). Damn. I’m hangry just talking about these!