Photo by Tyler Graef
Marriage is tough. Running a restaurant is tough. Here, local restaurateurs Shun and Lisa Cai share their life stories, wisdom on marriage and what they’ve learned from owning a restaurant with their spouse. Here’s to putting in the hard work to make both a marriage and a restaurant places that nourish others.
In their home country of China, Shun Cai’s parents arranged a blind date for him with Lisa, who a mutual friend knew. Shun says while he was shy, the first time he saw Lisa, he thought she was very beautiful; they pursued a long-distance relationship via phone calls and emails while Shun moved to America to work at his uncle’s restaurant, China Palace in Cape Girardeau.
A year later, Shun became a U.S. citizen and was able to bring Lisa to the U.S. Although Lisa’s mother did not initially want her to move to America because of the distance from her family, in 2005 the couple got married in China and America, and Lisa moved to Southeast Missouri.
Lisa and Shun worked at China Palace and Shun additionally worked for the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation department for years before opening Rice Noodle Cai, a restaurant specializing in Chinese American food on Independence Street in Cape Girardeau, in 2015. The hallmarks of their business include using a wok to cook American foods in a traditionally Chinese way, the grateful heart Lisa expresses to customers through her smile and their two children’s artwork hanging on the walls of the restaurant.
“I always am a smiling face to the customers. They always say, ‘I love your smiling face,’” Lisa says. “I say, ‘Yeah, because I’m grateful. Cape Girardeau has a lot of restaurants; you come to our restaurant. You like our food. You like our service, so we are grateful.’ So it’s true, not fake. It’s true. I appreciate them coming to our restaurant.”
Shun agrees. He says both he and Lisa come from “very normal people” who work hard to make a living with their hands, and what he’s learned from them is simple.
“Use your two hands and heart,” he says. “That’s it.”
Here, Lisa and Shun share their wisdom on how to have a strong marriage and family in the midst of the long hours it takes to run a restaurant.
Lisa: Just understand[ing] each other is very important. I know sometimes he is working hard. So he feels tired, so sometimes he says some things you don’t want to listen to … but because he is working hard and he’s tired, you need to understand. Tolerance. You need to encourage each other. … You need to forgive.
Shun: Don’t forget, bring your wife and your children together; that’s very important for each other. Eat dinner together. The best thing you should do is get the opinion if the child likes [the food], and then you cook some for your child or family. Spend more time talking to each other at dinner, so you can keep your family stronger longer.