Evanston Chamber Names Sandy Chen of KOI Businessperson of the Year
When I immigrated to the U.S. from Mainland China with my parents and three younger siblings, I would never imagined that one day I had the ability to open my own business, help other people, and make positive impacts to my community in which I now call home. Making the journey to a new land means giving up everything from one’s first home. My family’s story was just like one of these, landing here in Chicago with $300 in my dad’s pocket to achieve our American dreams. They worked very hard to support all of us. I was always in charge in the house, from cooking dinner for my brothers and sisters, doing laundry and cleaning the house, to bossing them around. I thought I would be a good boss.
So I opened my own business, a restaurant called Chen’s in Wrigleyville back in 1994. Hard work and long hours essentially headline a small business owner, and I worked on average 12 hours a day, 7 days a Week for the first few years. It was challenging and rewarding. This further drove my passion to open another restaurant.
Koi joined Evanston in 2004, and the community is originally what brought us here! There was initially a need for a fine dining Asian Fare restaurant on the North Shore, and Evanston was the best fit for our concept. I worked very hard and lucky to vote as Best Asian Restaurant in Northshore from Make it Better Magazine 5 years in a row. For the past 16 years, building the Evanston community has been our biggest goal. We have worked tirelessly to help build the reputation of Evanston’s Restaurant Row, as well as strengthen the community bond! Thanks to a great Koi team, and an even more amazing Evanston community, Koi has allowed me to open my most recent restaurant, Le Sud. Le Sud is a culmination of all of the long nights, patience and perseverance I’ve learned throughout these years. From learning new cuisines to expanding wine lists, it keeps me on my toes to further drive my passion.
Don’t forget that growth and greatness often come from those seemingly endless, fruitless days and nights of faith and discipline.