Sammy Samona has been a chef for 30 years. His journey to Wellington has been long, but rewarding.
He came to New York City via Thailand. With two years of studying law in his native country behind him, he enrolled at St. John's and began studying journalism.
"I ran out of money," said Samona.
After two years of schooling in the states, Samona began cooking – and he's never looked back.
"A restaurant -- it's hard work, not many people like it. It's no problem for me," said Samona.
Although cooking is his passion, Samona still writes for a newspaper in Thailand – keeping both passions alive.
From New York City, to Iowa, to Wichita, the Samonas found a home in Wellington. But over the last year, the Best of the Orient's doors have been closed.
With a revamped menu and the familiar buffet, his restaurant is back – and so are the customers.
Specializing in Chinese food, he wanted a different feel to the menu.
"I just cooked Chinese, but everybody wanted to try something different. So they would go to Wichita," said Samona.
It was time to show Wellington something different – sushi.
Looking at the new Thai and sushi menu at The Best of the Orient, the different combinations and variety fill three pages of his new menu.
It's understandable that a small farming community would display apprehension about something new, but Samona has seen his customers come around.
"I explain what is in the sushi, and let them try it. Then they say, 'I better come back to Sushi rolls.' People try it, and they like it," said Samona.
One thing that hasn't changed at The Best of the Orient is the hospitality and table-side manner.
It's a family-run business that has adopted Wellington, since 2005.
Samona's wife and son are constants at the restaurant. His wife May is back and forth, tending to the register, checking on customers.
Austin, who is currently the reigning Duke of Wellington, shows that he is no stranger to the restaurant business – willing to help inquisitive patrons pick a suitable sushi dish.
With so much variety, one could have a different meal almost every night.
Enter Christine and Stephanie Short, two Wellington sisters that have a taste for sushi. When they have a girls' night out in Wichita, sushi is what's for dinner.
Christine has tried sushi from Wichita, to Dallas, to Los Angeles, and promises Wellington's version doesn't disappoint.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the quality, expansive menu, affordability, and portion sizes. If you've never tried Sushi, try it here," said Christine Short.
Page 2 of 2 - Sister Stephanie offers a simple and direct message to hesitant Wellington diners.
"Go," she says laughing. "Just try it once, you'll leave full."
If you're still unsure about trying raw fish, the menu lists several cooked rolls.
"Raw fish definitely has a different texture," adds Christine Short.
The Short sisters took on the Rainbow Roll -- a California roll with tuna, raw salmon and whitetail.
Next was the Red Bull -- another California roll, with spicy tuna, topped with green onions and a spicy mayo drizzle.
For the not-so-faint-of-heart, other entrees include octopus, squid and eel.
Dozens of sushi rolls keep your taste buds guessing.
Will one of the Samona children follow in their parents' footsteps?
"I think my youngest one, but I don't know. It's hard to tell them what to do. In America, you cannot force them. The children decide what they want to do," said Samona.
… A fact he realized coming to America.
His skills in the kitchen have provided a comfortable living for his family, and have also provided authentic home-made dining to the people of Wellington.
My fortune cookie reads a lot like Sammy Samona's should, "Work hard and you will succeed."
Hours of Operation
Monday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.