A dream fulfilled

Immigrant finds calling with Thai restaurant in Front Royal
Satya "Hope" Ben holds a plate of crab rangoon appetizers, left, and an entree, drunken noodles, at right. She opened Ben's Family Cuisine restaurant at 654 W. 11th St. in Front Royal in December. Rich Cooley/Daily
The shrimp roll appetizer features jumbo shrimp wrapped in rice skin and fried with sweet and sour sauce. Rich Cooley/Daily
The shrimp toast appetizer is made with shrimp, crab meat, chicken, eggs, garlic, and cilantro. It is served with a cucumber sauce. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — When Satya “Hope” Ben emigrated from Cambodia to the United States, the only family she had was her husband.

Twenty years later, she’s standing in her Ben’s Family Cuisine, fulfilling her lifelong dream of coming to America and opening a restaurant. Since December 2014, Ben’s Family Cuisine has provided Thai, Korean and Vietnamese food to the residents of Front Royal and beyond.

Ben said she began working part time for a Thai restaurant in Herndon while she was paying the bills with a job at a bank.

“I’ve always loved cooking, so when I was working at the bank, I ran into these people with a restaurant and they asked if I would quit and come work for them,” Ben said. “I told them I liked my job, but I would come in and help them on the weekends.”

And helped them she did. Ben provided help in their kitchen, cooking for engagement parties, graduations, weddings and local fairs. She said Thai food is not much different from her native cuisine.

“The ingredients are similar, but they use a lot more spices, like saffron and curry,” Ben said. “I know Cambodian food, but over the years, I have developed a taste for Thai.”

Ben decided to open her own restaurant after some loving cajoling by her friends and family.

“Everybody knew my cooking and they kept asking, ‘Why don’t you have your own restaurant?'” Ben said. “Everybody was cheering me on when I decided to go into business.”

Ben’s Family Cuisine offers crab rangoon, chicken pad Thai, lemon grass stir-fry and Korean Japche, to name a few dishes. Ben said she decided to come to Front Royal because she felt like the market was ripe for it.

“There’s not too many places serving this kind of food here, so I wanted to bring something different for people,” Ben said. “Plus, it’s very affordable.”

A restaurant can make it anywhere, as long as it has three key ingredients, Ben said.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re at, as long as you provide good customer service, great food and decent prices,” Ben said.

In her culture, maintaining a support system is key to starting and maintaining a business, Ben said.

“The restaurant in Herndon has already offered to send down one of their chefs to train my employees,” Ben said. “In order to succeed in business, you have to have back up.”

Her experience in America has prepared her for the restaurant, Ben said.

“When I was at the bank, I worked with a lot of finances, so I know how to manage money and with the restaurant in Herndon, I got good at cooking, so running this restaurant isn’t difficult for me,” Ben said.

Ben said it is hard for her to pick a favorite aspect of the restaurant industry.

“I love the customer service, coming out and talking to the customers and learning about them,” Ben said. “But cooking is my passion. I can be back in the kitchen by myself all day and I’m happy.”

Ben added, “I love working with the public. When I came here, I worked for an airline, then at the bank. You learn so much from talking to people and you don’t get bored.”

Ben said while restaurants are usually slow during the winter, she has seen a number of repeat customers and has received phone calls complimenting her food. She said her customers are either Thai food aficionados or people trying it for the first time.

“When somebody has never had it, I always ask them what kind of food they like so that way they don’t get something they might not like,” Ben said. “But I always try to give them something similar, but with my taste.”

She admits Ben’s Family Cuisine is a bit of a misleading name, because it sounds like a diner that might serve burgers and French fries (which it actually does).

“The reason we named it that is because there are four Bens in my household, because all our last names are Ben,” Ben said, with a laugh. “People would say ‘Ben’ and we’d always have to ask, ‘Which one? Ben number one, Ben number two?'”

Ben’s Family Cuisine is located at 654 W. 11th St. in Front Royal. It is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 9:00 p.m.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com

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