It is a tale of two families, one country and a desire to have a better life.
The tale has a happy ending for Chi Le and Nhon Pham — husband and wife and co-owners of Binh Minh Vietnamese restaurant.
Pham was one of the few who escaped by boat crammed in with others for a perilous trip out of his country. It would take a few years but his life was about to turn around after living in war-torn Vietnam.
The boat ride is just the beginning of his journey to freedom. There was a refugee camp in Thailand for one year and then another year spent in Indonesia studying English. He was waiting, hoping and praying to make it to America, and in 1982 he got his chance. “I was so lucky to get to come to the U.S.,” says Pham. “Some people were in the camp for years – it was hard to sit and wait.”A 20-hour plane trip was his ticket out of nowhere and heading to somewhere better.
Pham landed in Greensboro, North Carolina, knowing no one and nervous, but thankful for a fresh start. His English was shaky and he was scared.
Years passed and out of necessity and to control their schedules, Pham and brother Minh, decided to open Binh Minh (a new day, “dawn” in Vietnamese) in 1997. He admits the first few years in business were hard. “We only had family working in the restaurant since we couldn’t afford to pay anyone,” smiles Pham.