The automatic door bell rings as the front door opens, and customers are greeted with, “Hi! How are you? How can I help you today? ” I welcome everyone who dines in my parents’ sushi restaurant with this progressively robotic phrase every day. My journey as a “restaurant kid” started when I moved to America to reunite with my parents after spending a decade in China with my grandma. Ever since then, my “home” has always been inside of the restaurant, among the countless plates that I have shattered and a pressure cooker that exploded when I was curious about “what would happen if I clogged the steam vent with rice”.
As a boy I would play hide and seek with my little brother, lock myself inside the industrial sized walk in freezer, and sleep in the little storage place under the cash register. I felt like Christopher Columbus, exploring the restaurant with a curious mind, experimenting with foods like a scientist, and making new “recipes” as if I were Paula Deen. But as I grew older, my parents began to give me tasks to help relieve some of their stress. When I was entering 7th grade, my dad assigned me an important job.
He, a restaurant manager, took me under his wing and prepared me as a chef to take his place. My objective was to make and serve sushi to the customers, but the journey was impossible without any proper training. During the summer, my dad directed me to observe him make sushi because this was the way how he learned and became a sushi chef 16 years ago. At first glance, I thought making sushi was a walk in the park, to my surprise, when it was my turn to make the sushi, it was a total disaster. I think you are better off working at Subway and making subs than sushi with me. ” My dad joked. “Making sushi is like an art; it takes time and patience, which took me three years to master it. ” Although it took me 7 months to get a “blue belt”, I was still nowhere near the level that my dad was on. However, knowing how to do several simple tasks did reduce some of the work my dad was doing; in fact, he took his first day off of work since the restaurant opened.
Eventually, my culinary responsibilities integrated with washing dishes, taking care of customers, and dealing with customer complaints. As I entered high school, I often times found myself trying to straddle being a “restaurant kid” and a regular student. Every day after school, I had to go to the restaurant and help out, while simultaneously struggling to finish my school work in the kitchen.
Sometimes my physics homework would be discontinued by the angry customers impatiently waiting for their order, my study time would be cut short because of chores that my parents didn’t have time to do, and whatever I was doing would be halted because of dirty dishes that needs to be washed. By committing everything towards family’s restaurant, I couldn’t participate in many social events or athletic teams; but I was willing to sacrifice my time for my parents because they sacrificed their lives 18 years ago by immigrating to America and starting a new life with the ultimate goal of increasing the probability of my success.
Growing up in a restaurant encouraged me to work harder so I can be the first member in my family to graduate high school and enter college. The best rewards from this experience are the virtues of patience and perseverance I gained from these experiences and this reward will apply to me as a college student and beyond.