BY ATANAS GOLEV
After almost a decade in Lexington, Thai & Mighty leaves the community the same way it entered it: making people happy.
Thai & Mighty on South Broadway closed on Friday, but along with the death of the restaurant, there will be the birth of another: owner Toa Green will make a dream come true by handing the space over to Lucy Seo, owner of the popular Han Cook In food truck. Green will now focus on developing Distillery District craft ice cream favorite Crank & Boom.
Thai & Mighty, originally Thai Orchid Cafe, opened in the spring of 2006, bringing over a concept that was already popular in Frankfort.
“The original inspiration for Thai Orchid Cafe was to bring my mom’s recipes, that she created in her first restaurant, the Smile of Siam, in Frankfort, to Lexington,” says Green.
A lot of special memories were made at the Thai Orchid Cafe (later renamed Thai & Mighty) despite the hard, often grueling, work.
“My favorite moments were always when my Mom, Dad and I would all be sitting at the back prep table and we would be doing some sort of prep work: slicing chicken, rolling spring rolls, or chopping veggies,” says Green. “We would always have the best talks about everything and anything. I will always cherish those moments.”
“Through those 10 years, I learned what it really meant to work hard. I mean really, really hard. My parents and I worked 18 hour days, literally sleeping sometimes at the restaurant… Prepping, cleaning, cooking, serving, running, and loving the crazy ride.”
At the end of the day, it was all worth it.
“I really enjoyed when we would have a really crazy busy shift and at the end of it we would all eat together with our team and breathe a sigh of relief that was it over. There is always camaraderie when you go through that sort of hard work together and know you were able to survive and conquer it.”
Having conquered the restaurant scene, Green is now turning her attention to Crank & Boom.
“The Thai food business had already reached its peak in that location on South Broadway. There was not much more room for growth. Crank & Boom on the other hand has endless potential on where it can go and what it can become. That prospect is incredibly exciting and we can’t wait to see what happens.”
And the location on South Broadway will be left in capable hands.
“I couldn’t be happier about having Lucy from Han Cook In to take over the space. Her food is tasty, bold and modern. Patrons who are looking for great Asian fare will be very excited about what’s to come. She’s got a lot of ideas to bring a new spin on Korean cuisine. Her personality is larger than life and she will be making a tremendous impact on the Lexington food scene.”
Lucy Seo’s dream has always been to have an actual, brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Everything finally fell into place when the Han Cook In food truck happened to be booked with Crank & Boom earlier this year. Seo met Toa Green and received an email a few days later asking her whether she was interested in buying restaurant equipment or even the restaurant itself.
But it wasn’t just blind luck: it was Seo making her own luck.
“I don’t believe in ‘chance’ that way,” says Seo. “There are a lot of opportunities waiting for you! If you love yourself and believe in yourself, don’t wait for the chance! This story is kinda crazy, but it’s possible!”
So how did it happen?
“She heard that my dream is to open a restaurant from her husband,” explains Seo. “Actually, I usually talk about my dream to people. It makes my dream stronger.”
But when Seo got the initial email, she knew she wouldn’t have enough money to purchase the restaurant.
“I replied to (Green): ‘I don’t have money to buy anything now, but I need to talk with you face to face.’ I met her at Thai & Mighty in the morning,” recounts Seo. “She showed me all of the restaurant… and we started to talk… I asked her if I could pay monthly… but she told me that she’d never thought about that, and I knew it was crazy… So I talked about the vision for my business, partnerships, my passions, etc.”
And, miraculously, it all came together.
“No one does that for someone they just met one time before,” says Seo. “But she did it! She knows what I’m gonna do and how I’m gonna do it, cause her parents and her started their business with strong passions. Business is not just about the money, it needs a lot of passions and confidence! That’s how I made my chance to reach my dream.”
Her dream began at an early age. Seo started cooking when she was just 6, and she always wanted to make people happy with her food.
But there were bumps on the road to purchasing her now famous yellow buggy. After meeting the wrong guy, Seo spent years dealing with restraining orders, financial crises, and even suicidal thoughts. But she never gave up on her goal, not even when it meant she had to drive all the way to Cleveland to pick up the buggy. In fact, she’s come to view this as one of her favorite moments.
“When I picked my buggy up from Cleveland, I drove total around 30 hours! I even slept that night at my Korean pastor’s house in West Virginia. They prayed for me, and their 3 kids loved my buggy! It was a really meaningful day.”
And she’s found the right guy now, too.
“My boyfriend, Stephen, is my hero. He has his own business, so he’s super a busy person. But whenever I have a problem, he fixes everything for me,” says Seo.
“One night, when I was on my way home after work at Blue Stallion, I saw my left tire fall off and roll away on the street. I was almost crying… car repair places were all closed and it was late at night… but he came to fix it. He fixed everything… I think he has magic hands! He even fixed the plumbing system in my buggy better than my old plumber. He always cheers me up. He is one of my best gifts from God.”
Seo is also grateful to the community as a whole.
“The best thing is that the people love local products, especially food, so that’s why I made partnerships with local businesses, and I really wanna make more partnerships. And, people have become more interested in healthy food and international food.”
And what more can the Lexington community do to help her Han Cook In succeed? Seo’s answer is pithy.
“Share the love with me. I have a lot of ideas, just trust me and share with the world.”
Lucy Seo hopes Han Cook In on South Broadway will open by mid-January. She will continue to operate her yellow buggy around town during the transition and also once the restaurant opens.
This article also appears on page 6 of the January 1, 2016 issue of Ace. Click to page thru the digital version of this issue.
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