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Anything for a wierd life
My name is Bob Holland and my wife's name is Rampai. She is the chef and I am the gopher, when she wants something I've got to go for it. We took over the restaurant in November 1987, it had been running as a Thai restaurant for about 2 years. There were two reasons why we bought the business, firstly our niece Jenny was working there as a waitress and could verify the story the vendor told and, secondly I could understand what the name Thai Kitchen meant, unlike the names of some of the other restaurants we looked at.
We stayed at the Dee Why site for 16 years until late in 2003 when developers bought the building. Despite their assurances that they were merely investors and that they wanted us to continue our business in their premises, we took the plunge and have moved our business to a nearby suburb, Belrose. Here the restaurant is in a small suburban shopping centre with a nice outside dining area and a play area with swings and slippery dip for the children.
Rampai was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1955, the youngest of a large family. Her father was from China and her mother was Mon, an ethnic group from up near the golden triangle. Rampai's father died when she was 8 years old and at the ripe old age of 11 she had to leave school and go to work, as there was no such thing as social welfare in Thailand in those days. Rampai came to Australia in 1980 on a holiday visa and when it was nearly expired she went to the immigration office to extend it. The woman at the desk asked when the visa expired and when she was told "this week" she told her to "come back next week and ask for me". This she did and the woman explained that now her visa was expired she was an illegal immigrant and there was an amnesty for illegals, so she was given a permanent visa, just like that.
Whilst working as a waitress in the Royal Thai in Chatswood she realised that she wanted to be a chef, so she got her job changed to kitchen hand and started learning every thing she could about her chosen trade. Soon she was working 7 nights a week in three restaurants, all the time soaking up knowledge and preparing for the time when she would have her own place.
My background is some what different to Rampai's. I was raised in Bristol in the West Country of England, that's why I have this strange accent like a cross between Benny Hill and Pam Ayres. The West Country of England is the bottom left hand side when looking at a map. After Cotham Grammar School I did an apprenticship in Bakery, did lots of Diplomas, came top of the country, and clever things like that and then became ALLERGIC, would you believe, to WHEAT. This forced me to do a quantum leap in careers and I joined the RAF to become an instrument fitter. From there I went into electronics and whilst working at an electronics factory in Sydney, Australia, met Rampai who caught my attention by feeding me Thai food. One day Rampai said " I want to buy a restaurant, will you help me" and I said "Yes" and twenty years later we're still at it.
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