My tummy was never once full in our whole life until two years after we came to Australia. Our family was from the poorest place in Vietnam that you could find, and when I was growing up, most of our food consisted of stuff collected from the side of the road, if you could find some. When we went to a party, even if we hadn’t eaten anything all day, we would tell everybody that we were full – that was part of the tradition, because nobody else had any food either.
I still remember the best meal I had as a child was when my mom gave birth to one of my younger brothers. At that time, women who had given birth were given one egg, and my Mum shared that egg with all the family. It went into two lunches and a dinner for all of us!
When I was 8 years old, a few brothers and I escaped in my oldest brother’s boat with about 40 other close family and friends. It was all hush-hush the planning because there were a lot of people getting imprisoned or executed for trying to escape the country at that time – this was after the Vietnam war. So before we left, we were all hiding in pig pens, stables, and underneath the beds. For me, it was like an adventure.
After 3 nights at sea, we reached an island named Bidong, where we were eventually interviewed and accepted as refugees to Australia, to be settled in Perth. But even after we arrived here, we still didn’t eat all that we had, because we had the mindset that we had to save food for the next day. Even when we went to family events, we didn’t eat! Finally, after two years, my brother, who we looked up to as our father, told us that it might be okay to accept some food.
I’ve done a lot of things in my life. I’ve been a DJ mostly, and then I owned a nightclub in Adelaide, but when my son was born, I wanted to change my lifestyle so I became a carpenter. Finally, I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, to make sure that my children would always have food to eat.
While we were waiting for the development approval, my son and I did all the building work we could in our spare time, and when we got the approval through, I stopped the work that I was doing outside and worked every day here for about 9 months, only bringing in tradies when I needed to. Then, tragedy struck. Firstly, when we were about 3 months away from opening, we completely ran out of money. I wasn’t working, I was behind with my rent, I was behind with my mortgage – the only person that was working was my wife, 7 days a week, in a nail salon. I didn’t know what to do, and I told my son we might have to give up on our dream. Then we found out my wife had cancer, and the doctors told her she couldn’t have another baby. When we found out, we just cried and cried.
But I told one of my friends what was going on, and what happened next was amazing. All my friends came together, and started to work on the restaurant for free. They came here day and night, even buying materials with their own money. I didn’t know how I would pay them back, but they told me it was their gift to me and my family and within 3 months, we were able to open Phonatic.
Then, just before our opening, we found out that my wife was cured of cancer. Now, she has just had our last baby boy, Jordan. Through all of these experiences, my son Brendon and I have become the best of friends, and my wife – now, she’s my soul mate.
We’re very happy here, and our motto is, ‘You come in as a customer but you walk out as a friend.’
If you’re in Adelaide, check out the tasty food and amazing decor at Phonatic on Hindley St.
#storiesnotstereotypes #inspiration #refugees #refugeevoices #migrants #migration #Australia #Vietnam #Adelaide
I, like most Australians born here, can’t comprehend just how tough life can be for some. Welcome, hope your restaurant is super successful after all your struggles and congratulations on your family’s good news!
I’ve never had Vietnamese food but i would have loved to go to your restaurant, you sound like such an amazing men, husband and father, good on you for working so hard to provide for your family and I love your motto.
I went to school with refugees from Vietnam and other Asian countries…their stories of starvation, being shot at, their dangerous escape opened my eyes to troubles outside my country… Heidi – Natasha Hutchesson another restaurant to try ☺
For every mountain there is a valley….you have been through so many valley’s but the view from the top of your mountain is amazing. Keep climbing…this is what Australia is built from. Wishing you every success and hope to visit your restaurant next time I am in Adelaide.
I love that this is real life. That there is, amongst sadness, great joy. These are the stories I like to see in my news feed. I can’t wait to go to Phonatic when I am back in my home town of Adelaide! We are extremely lucky to have you all here Adam! X
We’ve had wonderful food and and enjoyed a great atmosphere in your restaurant, and now I know why! Please be proud to be an Australian – the rest of us are proud of you! Oh, and don’t stop serving that wonderful food! Ed
What an amazing story! You deserve all the happiness and success in the world. How lucky we are to have you in Australia! ????
What an amazing story wish I had read it 2 weeks ago when I was in Adelaide I would have come for a meal at your Restaurant and walked out as a friend. It is in the memory Bank for next time. Good luck to you and your family for the future you sound like an amazing man.
I am grateful my family & I have never had to go through the hardships you endured. Thank you for pushing on and striving for a better life, your story is inspiring.
Thank you for sharing your story and I am so happy that you have made Australia your home. We here can never understand the terror and hunger you would have felt everyday. I wish you every success and many blessings for your new adventure. i look forward to coming to Adelaide one day and tryng it.
You are a hero, one of those small everyday heroes that most don’t even notice but you are a superhero. Thank goodness you found your way to Australia ????????.
What a beautiful story. Your resilience and drive despite all the odds, and the way you cherish your family, is to be so admired. I can’t wait to come eat here 🙂
You are an amazing person to survive the trials and never gave up. Your family,friends are amazing. I come from Burma so I understand. Australia is great to me. We need more inspiring people like you.
Donald Trump: This is a refugee. These are the people we welcome. Your infantile mind cannot wrap itself around the concept of hard work and sacrifice but refugees can. They deserve safety and a chance.
Thank you for sharing your story….my friends and family love coming in to your restaurant, and you are right, we are treated as family…..Adelaide is very lucky that you chose to call here home x
I have met this beautiful family and I completely agree with the final sentiment – my husband and I did walk out feeling we had made new friends.
Their restaurant is such a beautiful space with delicious food. If I lived in Adelaide I would definitely frequent their establishment more often, but I’m glad I was lucky to have found them in the few days I was there <3
The best food and the best service. They are such lovely people and we all walked out of the restaurant smiling ???? I wish you and your family all the very best
MMichelle TatyzoMMargie Rose Nelson
Beautiful, thanks for sharing the story – really reminds me of the human spirit and standing together with your brothers. May peace, joy and blessings follow your family always.
Bless your cotton socks & thank you for sharing your story. There is nothing like the power of friends who become family, this is what the story of Australia should be X
What an inspirational story. I’m in awe.
When we were little, my parents were very involved in providing meals every Sunday for Vietnam refugees through our church. I have fond memories of visiting their homes and playing with their children.
So happy to hear your good news. Bless you all. ❤
Thank you for being so raw and sharing what is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story. It serves as a reminder that we live such blessed lives and have so much to be grateful for. It’s a daily choice to see the positive and want to push through the tough times -wishing, hoping, praying that something worthwhile is waiting.
Wishing you and your lovely family an abundance love, laughter and endless happiness in your new restaurant.
That is a heart wrenching story. I live in Vietnam now and I love your country and the people. I will come to your restaurant when I come back to Australia. Katie Sanders McElligott.
What an emotional story. Thanks for sharing.
You looked after us so well late Thursday night! The service and food was faultless and we can’t wait to come back.
You should be so proud!
Adam Bui….Amazing story Adam….Australia is the most beautiful & lucky country….we are lucky here for many reasons….i know from my own experience escaping Communist Yugoslavia in 1969 to come here in Australia for a better future….wishing your beautiful family all the best from health, happiness & prosperity….warm wishes Sasha (: X