Fourth Street Grill
From oceanside Nha Trang, Vietnam to the Renton Highlands: one woman’s mission to feed children in Vietnam and residents of a Renton suburb.
History’s best art, food and inspiration for social change can come from its worst tragedies, war and struggle. After the Vietnam War, more than 300,000 orphans and 800,000 children lost one or both parents in Vietnam, according to Rice University statistics. In 1975, this is the Vietnam, Laney Ly, owner of 4th Street Grill and Lounge was born into.
Sitting in her new restaurant in the Highland neighborhood of Renton surrounded by single family homes and strip malls 35 years later, this is far removed from her childhood of post-war Nha Trang, a coastal city at the lower protruding belly of Vietnam. As Ly reflects on her life and her future goals and dreams, she recalls the poverty and hunger she saw from her childhood, especially during the flood season. Children and orphans were left hungry to fend for themselves with parents who were either killed or jailed.
“I saw children lying in the streets dying,” says Ly. “There were people roaming the streets with no legs or arms begging for food. There was no one there to support them after the war. I told myself that when I grow up, I will do something to help, that if I can and had the ability to, I will.”
Ly’s philanthropic spirit has deep ties to her passion for food and working to better the lives of kids. During her first trip back to Vietnam in 1996, not being able to bear seeing the struggle of begging street children, she asked a food street vendor to give them as many meals as they’d wanted and she would pay the vendor at the end of her trip. Today, she is one step closer to realizing her lifelong dream to be a successful business owner and having the capacity and resources to be able to give back to the children and elderly.
“That’s what makes me work harder. I know this type of business is not easy to do,” notes Ly. “I’ve always been passionate about food and wanted to open my own business. It’s my goal and dream to be able to reach out and help others and be successful by 35. If I work eight hours a day in accounting, it will not make my dream come true.”
A former accountant, Ly’s first restaurant is set to have its grand opening in March, and already has a following of clients during its soft launch. Fourth Street Grill and Lounge is an example of the few gems which can sometimes be found in strip malls. Welcoming you into the Fourth Street Grill on a weeknight are warm earth tones and spice colors and Ly’s gracious smile and hospitable warmth. Ly says she wants her customers to be able to relax, have a glass of wine, enjoy some good food, and with the downturn in the economy, she’s lowered her prices. Happy hour food specials are $2.50 and drink specials are $3 wells 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Growing up, Ly’s family owned a restaurant in Nha Trang and they share a common love of classic Vietnamese noodle dishes. While her sister is the chef of the family, famous for her hot pot and fish noodle soup, Ly says she cooks up a mean bun rieu, a seafood noodle soup.
The food is a rendition of Vietnamese traditional dishes combined with American comfort foods. Vietnamese classics like the spicy and savory Bun Bo Hue share a menu with the decadent Spicy Prawns, seasoned tender prawns with fragrant garlic and a bite of spiciness of chili pepper and spaghetti in a butter sauce. The pork chops, pot roast, and banh xeo are also must tries. For vegetarians, the vegetarian tofu spring rolls and veggie stir fries are filling and healthy options. If you are looking for a good drink, Ly recommends the apple martini to go with American dishes, and the Riesling or house mimosa to go with many of the Vietnamese dishes.
“I want people to experience not just Asian or American foods, but a combination of the East and West,” said Ly.
Though it is a new business, Ly says she is dedicated to keep community service and charity involvement as a foundation for her business model. She is donating food, catering and serving services to the International Examiner’s March 6, 2010 “Headlines Come to Life” benefit event.
“Hopefully in the future I will continue to do this, with community and charity involvement,” says Ly. “I would like to spend more time to volunteer, to donate to community and charity.”
Fourth Street Grill and Lounge has catering and meeting menus and gift certificates on their website. You can visit 4th Street Grill and Lounge at 4004 NE 4th St, Renton, WA 98056. (425) 255-3595. Or, visit them online: www. 4thstreetgrillrenton.com.
Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Sustainable Wines
When Keith and ReNae Pilgrim were married in 1993, Keith was working as a consulting geologist. The new couple had a dream of opening their own business and had it narrowed down to two options: a sailboat company or a winery. While discussing the two, ReNae asked Keith what she could do for a sailboat company and he told her she could help with the cooking and cleaning. Her response was “Let’s go with the winery.”
Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard is a small, family-owned winery situated on 300 acres of Red Mountain in eastern Washington that specializes in crafting wines with “New World” fruit and “Old World” depth, structure and elegance. Wines from Terra Blanca have been described as “beautifully crafted, polished” by the Wine Spectator, “intense and structured” by the Los Angeles Times and as having “harmonious, juicy finesse” by the New York Times. Wines produced include ONYX, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and chardonnay from estate vineyard grapes and other premiere red, wine and dessert wines.
Owners Keith and ReNae Pilgrim purchased their land in 1993 on what would become Red Mountain, one of Washington State’s more important wine grape-growing areas. Since then they have guided the development of their winery and vineyard operation from rattlesnake-infested sagebrush to a pristine vineyard and winery that produces 30,000 cases per year. They created their first vintage in 1997 and sampled the wines out of their home’s kitchen. In 2006 the Pilgrims opened a 55,000 square foot expansion that included a 10,000 foot tasting room and banquet facility as well as one of the state’s most extensive barrel cave system with room for more than 4,000 French oak barrels.
The Pilgrims are committed to farming in a safe, responsible manner. Terra Blanca is a sustainably farmed, Salmon Safe certified vineyard.
Christian Wong Owner of Chocolati Cafes
Christian Wong, a Chinese American owner of five Chocolati businesses in Seattle, started off as a corporate bee with a degree in Finance and Accounting from Seattle University. He left his corporate position to pursue an opportunity to own and operate a retail business full-time, specializing in confectionary treats.
“I’m not a chocoholic, but I like chocolate,” says Wong, who attended Ingraham High School and graduated in 1994. He started the company ten years ago with the idea that chocolate cafes would be the new trend. His company started off selling high-quality chocolates for wholesale to corporations and hotels. Today, Wong boasts three Chocolati cafes in Wallingford, Greenlake, and Greenwood; a cart in the downtown Seattle Public Library, and a factory and factory outlet on Aurora Avenue in Seattle.
Chocolate cafes are common and a popular way for people to spend their leisure time in Europe, Wong explains. Chocolati uses an Epicurean technique of hand-dipping, a very slow and tedious process that produces high-quality chocolate. Chocolati is also introducing a new line called, Everything Chocolate, which will showcase ten unusual food items paired with chocolate. Wong says the chocolate will bring out the flavor in items such as bacon dipped in chocolate, bugs (yes, real insects!) or chocolate-dipped salmon, a hit in the Northwest.
“We’re still a work in progress, but in Seattle, I think it’s a combo between the weather and a love of coffee that we’re doing well,” says Wong. “Here, you can grab a coffee, a bagel, use the Wi-Fi, and grab a gift all at the same time.”
Creating awareness for his team and offering charity to others is a part of Chocolati’s mantra. Chocolates for Change is a part of the confectionary company’s program of giving and volunteer efforts. They also coordinate Sack Lunch Nights where dozens of meals are passed out to people in need.
Chef Nikol Nakamura Tulalip Casino & Resort
Currently one of the principle pastry chefs at the Tulalip Casino and Resort in Washington, Chef Nikol Nakamura leads a strong staff of 12 to tackle the difficult task of operating a 24-hour bakery. Inspired by her late mother’s gastronomic talents, Chef Nikol began her own culinary studies at the Southern California School of Culinary Arts over 12 years ago. Originally, she intended to become a hotline cook but later found an affinity for making desserts instead. It seems that this calling has served her well as she is currently responsible for the menu development, training and hiring of staff, and keeping up to date with the constantly changing pastry trends. In addition to her personal leadership tasks, Chef Nikol and her crew supply products to the casino’s buffet, room service, espresso stands, banquets and three restaurants. Despite the food industry’s apparent downturn since the economic crisis of 2007, Chef Nikol and her team have managed to keep busy and continue to provide delicious post-meal dishes. According to Chef Nikol, the casino provides generous educational opportunities for her pastry cooks and one day hopes that each and every one of them will be a chef in their own right. In the meantime, Chef Nikol is hoping to build and maintain a strong pastry division where patrons can enjoy themselves through the wondrous enchantment of desserts. For this chef, food and service are what’s important, and she advises aspiring cooks to be organized, fair, tough-skinned, and food savvy – as the culinary field is one of the toughest out there – but most importantly, she stresses doing it for “the appreciation of food, not for the money or because you love the Food Channel. Like any dream, pursue it because you love it and with all you have. After all, at least you’re in a field where you will never go hungry!”
Chef Sam Ung Phnom Penh Noodle House
First opened in 1987, the Phnom Penh Noodle House of the International District continues to be the top provider of quality Cambodian cuisine in the Seattle area. Owner and main chef Sam Ung brings his culinary upbringing from his native Cambodia and integrates new flavors to a variety of traditional Cambodian dishes. Growing up in the restaurant business, Sam first began in the industry at the age of 10 by working as a dishwasher in his parents’ restaurant in Cambodia. Admiring the skill and trade of the chefs, he first began cooking when he was 16. It was here that he found his lifelong passion of cooking. During the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Sam was relocated to Seattle as a refugee and slowly began settling into the community. One day while at a friend’s record shop, he stumbled upon a small abandoned sushi bar and from there the Phnom Penh Noodle House was born. Today the restaurant boasts an overwhelmingly positive approval rating from numerous online reviews and local eating guides, including Zagat, Yelp and earned the “Favorite Restaurants from the Seattle Weekly” award in 2006. Esteemed guests such as the CEO of Starbucks, the Ambassador and Secretary of State of Cambodia, Mimi Jung of King 5 News and former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, have all dined in this locally renowned eatery. Sam hopes to pass on the business to his daughters and transition into teaching his craft to the next generation of chefs, first by releasing his own cookbook and eventually some hands on classes. For Sam, you can learn from anyone.
“Even though I have a lot of experience in working, I’m still open-minded. Everyone has their move, their specialty, and I combine all their experiences. I’m good with what I know, but I’m always learning. Everyone has something special you can learn from.”
Romson Regarde Bustillo Filipino American Artist
Crayon drawings and popsicle stick and glue buildings during his childhood years in the Philippines are the earliest artistic memories of local artist Romson Regarde Bustillo, but contests that those early techniques still influence his work today. Now the renowned artist incorporates his work as a printmaker and studio artist to communicate themes often overlooked by mainstream art. Bustillo says his work “explores the role(s) individuals and groups assume as they pass and/or enter new environments” and answers how we maintain our unique identities as we assimilate “culture”. Broader concepts of globalization and indigenization are other themes brought to light in this innovative form of art and the process of remembering and forgetting, are tied closely to his artistic dialogue. Growing as an artist, Bustillo attributes his cultivation from the help of various mentors, such as Marita Dingus, who introduced him to the Pratt Fine Arts Center in the Central District and allowed his first encounter with printmaking. There he met other members and artists such as Greg Robinson, Evan Isaksen, Drake Deknatel, Maxi Powers and many others. Since then, Bustillo has been all over the world from Central America, to S.E. Asia to the East Coast of the United States. He says international travel has expanded his visual vocabulary and contributes directly to the direction of his work. Like a true artist, Bustillo’s main goal is to simply continue his own journey in the field and recommends any aspiring artists to “make art and study what you’re trying to say.”
Photographer Credit: James Harnois
View Romson Bustillo’s work at http://romson.tumblr.com.
Perry Lee World-Renowned Collector
Bruce Lee Memorbilia
Perry Lee is one of the largest collectors of Bruce Lee memorabilia in the world. He has developed his collection over more than 42 years, amassing over 5,000 items relating to the martial arts icon. Perry Lee, an environmental inspector for King County and no relation to his idol, first saw the legendary star in 1964 when he visited Franklin High School and gave a Kung-Fu demonstration. After the demonstration, Perry took the bus to Bruce Lee’s martial arts school in the University District.
“It was my first meeting with Bruce Lee,” said Perry. “I was mesmerized watching him train and practice with his students performing his personal style of Kung-Fu. I was only 14 years-old at the time. However, he left a profound impression on me for life.”
Perry believes Bruce Lee is a significant individual to the API community, beyond just his martial arts prowess.
“Bruce Lee was the first positive image of an Asian American on television back in the 60’s when he appeared as Kato on the ‘Green Hornet’ series,” said Perry. His massive collection includes items that showcase a different side of the star few are aware of. Bruce Lee was an innovator, philosopher, artist, author, poet, and fitness and nutrition expert long before yoga, diets and organic food became a fad. Perry is proud to show off his collection of Bruce Lee sketches, martial arts training devices, letters, and thousands of books, magazines, and toys with his image on it.
Perry Lee said he has always felt connected to the ID and its non-profit agencies. That drove him to participate in “Headlines Come to Life”.
“Helping the IE is just an extension of my willingness to assist and support the Asian American community,” said Perry. “I believe IE provides a positive, historical perspective of Asian Americans and the struggles that they went through and are still going through that young API youths have forgotten.”
Miho Takekawa & Diego Coy Marimba and Flute Duo
Miho Takekawa and Diego Coy come together to form the Miho and Diego Marimba Flute Duo and showcase an interesting mix of Latin and Japanese musical traditions. Going on their four years of performing together, the duo has performed at numerous platforms around the Northwest including the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle, various sites on the UW campus, and numerous radio stations, such as KUOW 94.9FM and KBCS 91.3FM. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Miho Takekawa grew up learning the piano and violin but eventually exchanged the traditional instruments for the vibrant sounds of the marimba drums. After one fateful encounter with a jazz professor at the UW, she instantly fell in love with the vivacity of the genre and soon began incorporating traditional Japanese music with a twist of jazz and Latin influence. She eventually met Diego Coy after following his work in the Northwest. Growing up in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, and traveling through Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, Diego has an extensive background in the musical diversity of Latin America. He specializes in percussion instruments of the native Andean cultures and now has the ability to make his own instruments by hand. Both Miho and Diego stress the importance of preserving the true essence of music and despite the difficult times for musicians, still maintain their primary goal to encourage cultural understanding through the medium of music. For both of them, money was never the sole motivation to art, but rather an understanding of others and themselves.
“When we’re starting something, a lot of people advise you or tell you different things. I think when we are young, we try to take everything and try to digest so quickly and move on. I think I would say to take slow steps, don’t do anything too quickly because you will miss the small details.”
Theo Chocolates “Fair Trade” Chocolatiers
Theo Chocolate produces premium organic and Fair Trade specialty chocolate. That means using ingredients that are grown sustainably; partnering with its growers by ensuring they earn a living wage and have access to education for their families; using green energy sources to power its factory; and using sustainable packaging and printing methods. Theo Chocolate is still the first and only organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country. All of its ingredients are screened to ensure they meet its standards for social and environmental responsibility.
“Organic and free trade is something we feel strongly about,” said Audrey Lawrence, Sales and Marketing Manager for Theo Chocolate. “Every step of the way, from packaging to the origin, we try to come up with solutions with tangible effects.”
Their founding principle is that the finest artisan chocolate in the world can (and should) be produced in an entirely ethical, sustainable fashion. The founder, Joseph Whinney, and its team approach chocolate as an agricultural product, not a commodity.
“Along with that, a fantastic thing we do is have a strong commitment to quality and rigorous taste-testing,” she said. “There’s also a high premium on educating our consumers.” One of Theo Chocolate’s missions is to “demystify” chocolate and help consumers understand where cacao comes from and its sensitivity to environment.
“First, it’s a fascinating food or dessert to learn about,” Lawrence says. “When you piece things together, you realize it’s a really fragile crop and grown in ecologically-sensitive areas from people who are sometimes marginalized. There’s great potential for things to go wrong and be taken advantage of as well as make choices that will only benefit short-term…If you care about things on a global level, it matters to know where it comes from.”
Chiyo Sanada Calligraphy Artist
Demonstration to Music
Chiyo Sanada was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan and has studied the art of calligraphy since the age of seven. According to Chiyo, growing up in the Japanese school system meant a frequent demand from instructors for elegant handwriting and the repetition made her fall in love with the art. Faced with the decision of a career path, Chiyo eventually chose calligraphy for her desire to teach the art around the world and her discovery of self-expression in the brush. Chiyo conveys a path of creative expression found in the tools and the various strokes of calligraphy. Chiyo specializes in Japanese and Chinese style lettering, but ever since moving to the United States in 2000, has expanded her art by experimenting with different colors, techniques and art forms. Now she frequently blends in her work with artistic drawings and painting, taking her calligraphy to a new level of uniqueness. Chiyo has also worked in conjunction with other Japanese art forms such as Taiko drumming and has creatively incorporated other arts to influence her own. She hopes to one day expand her work onto various commercial lines, such as greeting cards and t-shirts, but she says using her talents towards helping local communities still satisfies her the most.
Her advice towards aspiring artists is to be bold, daring and most importantly, open-minded. “I didn’t have any background painting, drawing or art history. I never took those kinds of classes, just calligraphy. But since I came to the US, I learned about painting, drawing, ceramics and I met a lot of good artists. That changed my ideas. That was a great influence to be a better artist. Don’t be stubborn. Keep your brain as a sponge and you can absorb all the goodies. Then you can blend it in your work, and then hopefully you can make your own.”
Seattle Kokon Taiko Group Japanese Taiko Drums
Seattle Kokon Taiko traces its roots to the Seattle Taiko Group, which formed in April 1980 following a dynamic performance by Ondekoza at the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival. Since it branched from its predecessor, it now focuses on smaller, more musical performance pieces. Taiko is a dynamic synthesis of rhythm, movement and spirit originating in Japan and evolving as a folk art over the last several hundred years. In Seattle Kokon Taiko, they try to combine the ancient with the modern – a repertoire of traditional pieces and contemporary compositions. Through Taiko, they hope to contribute to the development of a uniquely Japanese American art form—Japanese in origin, American in expression–that weaves threads of continuity between generations and builds bridges of understanding among people of all nationalities and walks of life. Whether dancing at a festival, praying in a temple, watching a theater performance or fighting a battle, the sound of the Taiko could be heard as part of everyday Japanese life for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Many Taiko players, in common with traditional drummers around the world, believe that the spirits of all who contributed to the creation of the drum are embodied within it: the animal who gave the skin, the tree that gave the wood, the person who supplied the labor. “When we strike the drum, we give voice to these spirits; we release them from silence, and in a sense, give them new life.” These echoes through time reverberate in the spirit, and it is this spirit that drives and directs the playing as much as the mind or body. When they all come together – mind, body, spirit – they say you are one with the drum. That is the epiphany towards which all Taiko players strive – to be one with the drum in time with the rhythm of the earth.
Outshine Productions Non-Profit B-Boy Group
Tim Uomoto and Rick Chon have been break-dancing for ten years. It started as a way to express themselves as teens, but has evolved into a way for the duo to enact a tangible difference in the lives of inner city youth. Chon, 26, a Korean American from Tacoma, and Uomoto, 26, who is Japanese and Caucasian, are graduates of the University of Washington. They became friends with a common appreciation for dance and what it can do to transform someone’s life. Chon and Uomoto saw that many youth found confidence, talent and a reason to stay off the streets through breakdancing. They established a non-profit group, Outshine Productions, to support the breakdancing art.
“One of our motivations is to show how much talent exists in the Northwest from these breakdancers,” said Uomoto. “We try to fly people in from around the country to battle local b-boys and get as much exposure as possible.” Exposure is an important element of Outshine’s cause. Since a talent in dancing is rarely sustaining for young people, a career pursuing it is not considered a possibility nor achievable for most. Since there are few to no outlets for dance skills or advancement, most stop dancing. Chon and Uomoto believe that increasing national awareness of the talented Northwest breakdancing scene can drive more support for the artistry in the region and career options in dance for inner city youth, who would otherwise have few options than to join gangs or participate in destructive behavior. One of their biggest goals is to offer breakdancing classes to inner city youth.
The duo have been busy—starting the Northwest Battle Series last year and coordinating the Northwest Sweet Sixteen, a contest composed of the sixteen best break-dancers in the area. Uomoto said his group is excited to perform at “Headlines” so “people will get to see what’s happening in the community,” he said. “It’s also a chance for us to stay in touch with our roots— the API community.”
PG Boyz Urban Dance Group
A smooth and versatile hip-hop dance group with a self-described “Boyz II Men”-style, the PG Boyz offer a fresh new look to choreographed dance. Dancing together for over 5 years, founder Kolanie Marks brings together the Northwest’s most talented troop of choreographers to exhibit an innovative and unique style around the world. Traveling throughout Europe and all over the United States, the PG Boys have showcased their skills through performances and workshops. For them, anyone can dance and accordingly, people from all walks are welcome to join their sessions. Having already accomplished their previous goal of becoming international, the PG Boyz now strive towards expanding their notoriety, and eventually appear in music videos. However, their main motivation is still focused upon molding the next generation of dancers and providing a positive outlet for self-expression amongst the youth. The group stresses the importance of positivity in success.
“In this industry, there a lot of people that will tell you dancing is a waste of time and will never get you anywhere, but you never give up, never listen to negativity. You just have to be positive to get to your goals.”
The PG Boyz will be performing this coming weekend, Feb 19th and the 20th at the Shorecrest High School located in Shoreline, WA. www.facebook.com/pages/PG-BOYZ.