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Asian chef makes dreams a reality in Reno, despite pandemic

What’s it like opening a restaurant during the pandemic? Rice Box Kitchen in Midtown Reno did just that. KUNR Youth Media’s Avery Thunder stopped at the restaurant to learn more.

Perapol Damnernpholkul is putting his freshly-wrapped dumplings in a steamer. They’re made with shrimp, ginger, garlic, and a variety of spices.

Rice Box Kitchen is an Asian fusion restaurant that opened about six months ago.

“A lot of my friends,” he said, “I can't say all these, like, bad words [they said], but, you know, it's like, ‘What are you thinking, like, opening a restaurant during COVID?’ ”

Rice Box Kitchen sits in the MidTown district. Damnernpholkul said he never went to school for this kind of thing, but his upbringing was his main influence.

“It was a single, single parent, you know, working mom that, you know, she cooks in restaurants so I always love to cook,” Damnernpholkul explained. “So, she is the one that kind of inspired me to.”

Despite Damnernpholkul’s resilience, he’s still struggling with staffing, as many restaurants are.

“We actually have to close two days a week now because the restaurant is just run by me and my brother-in-law, and my sister comes in to help in the evening,” he said.

Despite these struggles, Damnernpholkul feels that he’s filling a void in Reno’s food scene by supplying more authentic Asian cuisine and becoming a part of the community of local Asian restaurants.

“It was so nice because the community came here, you know, the Asian, all the different Asian restaurant owners, came here and, like, tested out my dish.”

Damnernpholkul decided to follow his dreams despite the pandemic, and for him, it was worth it.

Avery Thunder is a senior at the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology in Reno. KUNR’s Youth Media program is a special partnership with the Washoe County School District to train the next generation of journalists.

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