Located on the corner of Scatterfield Road and Charles Street, a new authentic Asian restaurant has opened its doors to the public: Lantern House Asian Bistro. Perhaps the only thing more admirable than the establishment’s success is the owner’s life story.
At the age of 25, young entrepreneur Xing Zhao witnesses his dream of owning and running a restaurant come to life every day. However, such success has not always been ensured or expected for Zhao.
At the age of 13, Zhao and his parents made the difficult move from China to the U.S. They settled in San Francisco.
“Everything was different,” said Zhao. “The street signs, the language––the cuisine is different, the culture is different––everything about it was just really different.”
Zhao’s stay in California was short-lived, and it was not long before he was sent to live thousands of miles away again.
“The rent was really high in San Francisco,” he explained. “My parents sent me away to a family member of theirs located in a small town in Iowa.”
In Iowa, life was far from easy for young Zhao; every day, he worked from dawn until dusk.
“The family I lived with owned a restaurant, and part of the agreement was that I had to help them out with their restaurant,” he stated. “So, as soon as I got out of school, I was in the back of the kitchen doing dishes and prepping food for them.”
As a 13-year-old, Zhao was not aware of how long he would be working at that restaurant, nor the profound impact it would have in the shaping of his future.
“It’s kind of funny,” Zhao said. “From the age of 13 until the age of 20, I was working in the restaurant. Over the course of those years, I was tired; I didn’t want to keep doing that, because I viewed it as an obligation.”
For two years, Zhao left the restaurant business and pursued other interests. It did not take him long to realize that the industry of food service was his true passion in life.
“It took me two years to realize that I couldn’t get away from restaurants,” said Zhao. “I came back to it, and I decided that if I was going to go back to the restaurant business, then I didn’t want to work for anyone else besides myself. I wanted everything to be done the way I wanted it.”
With that, Zhao’s dream of running his own restaurant began to blossom, and he moved far away once again.
“I’ve been living in Anderson for four or five years now,” said Zhao. “I chose to live here because the cost of living is really low.”
Once the move from Iowa to Indiana was complete, the next step for Zhao’s dream was to find the best location to open a restaurant in town.
“I passed by this area, and I saw that it was for rent,” he said. “The location was right next to the casino and right next to Walmart, so that meant there would be a lot of people passing through. As soon as I walked into the building, I said, ‘This is it.’”
However, the tireless battle of entrepreneurship did not end there. Throughout the process of opening the restaurant, Zhao had to remain unwavering in his vision.
“Interesting story,” he said. “The dining room is red. The contractors that I hired to do my restaurant design were strongly against it. And the open kitchen concept, where everyone can see how things get prepared in the kitchen, they were strongly against it. But, if you’re opening your own business, you have to believe in yourself and your vision.”
Standing in his bright red dining room, in front of his open kitchen, Zhao offered advice to other young entrepreneurs. “You have to stand your ground,” he said. “You have to not compromise when it comes to your vision of the business.”
However, the attraction of Lantern House Asian Bistro goes far beyond its visual appearance.
“The quality of the restaurant is good,” Zhao said. “The quality of the staff, food and ingredients is good. Quality food takes quality time.”
After just a few months of his restaurant being open, Zhao is pleased with its success, and he looks toward the future with optimism.
“We all hope to be the best restaurant in Anderson,” he stated. “Not only to be the best Chinese or the best Japanese restaurant, but to be the best restaurant in Anderson.”