Vietnamese cuisine is a hit at House of Pho in Southampton - Bensalem

Upper Southampton Vietnamese cuisine is a hit at House of Pho in Southampton

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Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 9:15 am | Updated: 10:10 am, Fri Oct 25, 2013.

The House of Pho in Southampton recently celebrated its first anniversary, a huge achievement for once-homeless owner Le Tran.

He and his wife arrived on the shores of America 30 years ago with a suitcase and $10 between them. Adding to their troubles, they didn’t speak a word of English. In order to survive, they had to take on odd jobs and do work nobody else was willing to do.

“You name it, I probably did it,” Tran will tell you in perfect English.

They were refugees from southern Vietnam and spent their first years in Canada, starving and homeless. Back in those days, Tran said, there was no system in place to help refugees get on their feet.

“In Montreal, I endured for five years. I was very young with no friends or family and no language,” said Tran. “There was much I had to learn. I had to walk with two shoes, one with a lace and one without. I remember back then I walked for six months without a shoelace and I did not have the money to buy another one. One day, I came across a shoe discarded in a tree and finally had another lace to put into my shoe.”

He said his years of going without taught him to value food. It is a commodity he takes seriously as he lovingly prepares dishes for his guests.

Customers at his restaurant on Second Street Pike notice the care he puts into his dishes.

Southampton Supervisor Lola Biuckians recently dined at the House of Pho with friends and said: “The food was excellent, especially for those who can eat shrimp and seafood. The presentation was beautiful. At the end of our sumptuous dinner, the owner stopped by our table, and between all of my lady friends, we learned his particular story.”

She said after hearing about his struggles, she really appreciated the work that went into building and growing his business.

The House of Pho was designed by Tran from scratch. He meticulously planned it for the comfort of his guests using his skills as an engineer. He earned a degree in engineering from the University of Montreal but it was of little use to him when he moved to the United States. He started over and trained as a cook in a Japanese kitchen. It was OK by him, he said; cooking was always something in the back of his mind. Tran liked to cook from a young age and as he grew, he valued it even more. Today, he tries to educate people about not wasting food and said he never leaves food on his plate.

With his first year behind him, Tran has his mind on his customers and making sure everybody leaves his restaurant satisfied.

“I care about my customers. I am installing a new AC unit right now, even though nobody is complaining,” said Tran. “My customers say they are comfortable. But I want my customers to be better than comfortable. I want to cook a dish well for them and I want them to pay me because they truly enjoy it.”