On Monday, March 6th, we visited Kim at Fat Rai’s to cook Thai Green Curry with her. We took this opportunity to get to know her a bit more and to include her story in our kitchen narrative. Her story of how she came to terms with lost loved ones and her aspirations to own a restaurant will help guide the exhibit visitors through the activities that our group has planned.
After cooking we sat down to eat together and chatted to Kim about her life story and about how she started Fat Rai’s. Since a young age, she learned to cook from her Grandma, who taught her to “never deny anyone food”. Before Fat Rai’s, Kim had opened a restaurant called “The Kitchen” in memory of her friend Bernie. She mentioned that her friends always pushed her to open her own restaurant, and one of her best friends, Bernie, even made a menu for her. When Bernie unexpectedly passed away from lupus, Kim wanted to honor their friendship by using the menu Bernie made for her, at The Kitchen. After a year, her landlord wanted the restaurant space back so she had to move out. That’s the story of how she started her first restaurant.
After moving to Hazelwood, Kim’s mother passed away, bringing Kim and Ray closer. As Kim and Ray spent more time with each other, they would joke about how one of the chefs in the restaurants on 2nd Ave. didn’t know how to cook and that they should open up a restaurant instead. One day, Ray passed away due to gun violence in the neighborhood. Kim decided to pick up cooking once more and opened Fat Rai’s. Fat Rai’s location is the restaurant space that Kim and Ray would joke about, and she said that it was the perfect spot. The name “Fat Rai’s” came from her brother’s nickname, Fat Ray, and “I”, which is herself.
When we asked her to try out our activity cards, she spoke very excitedly about how Ray used to like eating everything and anything she made, basically everything on the Fat Rai’s menu, so she could not pick one particular recipe to write about. Instead, she wrote a recipe for friendship and talked about how everyone in Hazelwood knew Ray as one of the most friendly, energetic and happiest people, and how he was a wonderful dad, brother, uncle, and son.
Now, she aspires to open a Fat Rai’s franchise in Arizona, where her son lives. She wants to find a place that is already furnished with restaurant tools and equipment because that would make things run more smoothly. She hopes that more children in the community will have solid aspirations and take action to reach their dreams, and was really excited when we told her about how the children at the Carnegie Library wanted to become chefs.
“Reach few goals to reach the next year goals, to move forward” – Kimberly Allen
- Many community heroes had their own heroes in their lives. Kim is an inspiration for many in Hazelwood right now, but she reached this by taking inspiration and support from those around her. Role models play a big role in a person’s life, and how they pick their life path.
- We hope to inspire many other people in the neighborhood through Kim’s story, how she displayed great determination to reach each of her shorter-term goals to move towards her bigger overall goal.