Pyhäjoki & Neighbourhood

Huong Rahlan-Kallio is happy to run her own café-restaurant. Photos: Henri Luoma

From refugee to restaurant owner

The café-restaurant Rahlan celebrated its first year of operation in early summer. The workers at the Hanhikivi peninsula and local residents have already found their way to the restaurant.

The only Asian restaurant in the municipality has been warmly welcomed by the residents. The restaurant owner, Huong Rahlan-Kallio, says that the number of customers is higher than she could have ever imagined when the restaurant was still a dream for her. Running the restaurant is hard work, but the entrepreneur says she is happy.

Anything is possible if you just have the will and the courage to go after your dreams.

“Maybe one day there will be a hundred customers in my restaurant every day and I will have several employees, but I am not really going that far right now. The most important thing is to develop the restaurant continuously and keep the food high quality,” she says.

Rahlan-Kallio arrived in Finland as a refugee in 2005 and first lived in the Ruukki reception center. She had spent the previous year at a refugee camp in Cambodia. The 17-year-old student had to leave her family and school behind in Vietnam. She says at home her mother took care of cooking, and Huong herself wasn't that interested in working in the kitchen.

In her new home country, she studied Finnish for the first two years and, to her surprise, found that studying to be a chef was something that interested her. A restaurant of her own is a dream come true.

“Anything is possible if you just have the will to do it and the courage to go after your dreams.”

Decision to open restaurant supported by news

Before establishing Rahlan, Huong worked as a restaurant manager in Raahe and in a hotel in Kalajoki. She says the news about the nuclear power plant and the large construction projects gave her the courage to open her own restaurant, even though it is a big financial commitment.

Both the workers at the Hanhikivi 1 site and local residents of all ages have found their way to the restaurant.

“There is another café-restaurant and a pizza place just next to my business, but I think we all have distinct culinary cultures to offer. I don’t feel like we are competing with each other.”

Although Rahlan-Kallio speaks fluent Finnish, the paperwork required to open the restaurant was tough. She was assisted by her husband and friends, as well as Raahe’s business services for entrepreneurs. Her accounting firm also gives her a lot of assistance in the daily tasks of running a business.

“I’ve never encountered racism. Finnish people are friendly, nice and helpful. I had to leave my home country, but I am happy in Finland.”

 

Both the workers at the Hanhikivi peninsula and local residents of all ages have found their way to the restaurant of Huong Rahlan-Kallio.

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