Huy Le was tired of having to travel out of town for his national cuisine so the Vietnamese expat has taken matters into his own hands. He's starting up a Vietnamese restaurant in Whanganui.
The first-time business owner and lead hand Brock Nyenhuis are opening Banh Mi Craft, the first Vietnamese style restaurant in Whanganui.
"Whenever I wanted Vietnamese food I would have to drive to Palmerston North," Le said.
Le said the idea has been on the table for a number of years and now was the time.
Le and Nyenhuis have been working in-store since alert level 2 trying to get the restaurant up and ready, with Banh Mi Craft opening its doors on June 15.
Previously Victoria's T42 cafe, Le bought the premises just before the country went into alert level 4 lockdown.
"It was very, very good timing on our part," Nyenhuis said.
Le and Nyenhuis met seven years ago when both were working at The Big Orange and have remained friends since.
With previous experience in an Asian fusion restaurant in Tauranga as well as a background as a barista, Le felt Nyenhuis was the perfect person to run the front of house.
"He has a good history as a barista and experience in a restaurant environment so he knows how to run the front of house. I'm more behind the scenes in the kitchen."
Le studied towards becoming a chef in Vietnam, as well as studying for a Certificate in Cooking and Business Management at UCOL once in Whanganui.
Banh Mi Craft will function as a cafe, serving coffee with housemade cabinet food, as well as an extensive fusion-based menu for those wanting to dine in.
Nyenhuis said they would be using local eateries Cinnamonui and The Burrow to help stock cabinets also.
"We wanted to support local as much as we can."
Banh Mi Craft will have classic Vietnamese staples such as pho, spring rolls and banh mi rolls, but Le wanted to soften up the menu to make it more friendly and accessible.
"We have the classics. But we also have the fusion Vietnamese with some Kiwi twists."
Inspired by restaurants in Palmerston North, Le wanted to create his own unique twist on the cuisine.
"We should make something different. We can't follow them. We wanted something unique."
From June 22, Banh Mi Craft will be providing a combo discount on essential workers as a way of giving back to those working through the times.
"Just a way for us to say thank you for those who have been working throughout the lockdown," Le said.