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1994 ushered in a major life change for a fresh-faced eighteen-year-old. He arrived in Queens from his homeland China broke and in debt. Salvation appeared in the form of a job in a restaurant. The youngster worked hard and eventually paid off his debt and embarked on his new American adventure. Beyond paying off his owed money, he learned a craft, a skill that would shape his life. Sushi.

By Melissa Binkerd

The food, the art, the authentic form was bestowed upon him. He learned and absorbed, putting in the hours to hone the skills needed to master sushi. 1998 ushered in another life change. Through a Chinese employment agency, he was offered a chef position in Myrtle Beach, SC. Chef Danny had arrived. He helped open and launch a successful new restaurant. It was loud, different, and stayed open late.

A young waitress worked down the street at another sushi restaurant, but it closed at 10:00 pm. One night after her shift, she wandered down to the restaurant still serving. Behind the bar was a young man with shocking white hair. She was intrigued. He offered her a cheesy pick up line. Six months later they married. Within a year they bought a house and a child was on the the way.

Life was good.

Word of Chef Danny's Sushi talent spread. He was contacted about a job in Wilmington, NC. The opportunity was too good to pass up. They were living the good life, busy. Chef Danny established himself as a top-notch chef. Lana worked as a waitress at a competitors restaurant until deciding to go back to school. She kept in touch with her former employers. Hard times came in 2008 when the economy collapsed. Chef Danny was laid off. Lana was pregnant. They made it through the tough times and found work. 2014 ushered in more change. Lana's former employers she had kept in contact with had an offer. They were ready to retire and were considering two couples to take over their authentic sushi restaurant. Would Chef Danny and Lana be interested in coming in for an interview? It was a nerve wracking and challenging interview. The Japanese owners were concerned about the future of the restaurant they had established. What plans would the incoming couple have for the restaurant? They wanted details. Chef Danny had his answer: we change nothing. On the table they sat at during the interview was a plate of fish. The elderly gentleman served himself a piece of fish, then his wife, and finally, one to Chef Danny. They thanked the couple for coming in and saw them on their way. Chef Danny and Lana returned home, unsure of how the interview went. They waited. Hoping. Dreaming. The call came. The offering of fish had been the retiring couple's answer. For three months Chef Danny and Lana learned from the former owners and then it was theirs.

They did make changes: installing a computer system, hiring more staff. But the authenticity, the menu, the ambiance stayed the same as promised. Chef Danny and Lana Genki Sushi thrived. They hired staff who were more like family than employees. They called their customers by name.

In 2019 they purchased the building next door with plans for expansion. 2020 sidelined their plans, for now. Through this year they endured and continue to build their customer base. Chef Danny found his dream in America and lives it every day with his family. Genki Sushi 4724 New Center Drive #5 Wilmington, NC 28405 Phone 910-796-8687


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