Local restaurant a family affair

Monday Close-up
2009-08-10T00:20:00Z Local restaurant a family affairMario Ruiz - Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 10, 2009 12:20 am  • 

It's just one big, happy family at India Palace in Provo where owner

Amrik Singh and his wife Kulwinder Kaur manage a staff of six family

members who work in the kitchen and in the dining area.

Singh's 16-year-old son is learning the ropes in the kitchen, his daughter comes in on the evenings she's not at her other job, his cousins all work in the kitchen and other relatives are scattered throughout the restaurant.

Photographs and paintings of the Golden Temple of Amritsar in the Punjab Region of India adorn the restaurant, located on Center Street in Provo. The Singhs are all from Punjab, a Sikh majority state in northwestern India.

Forty-four-year-old Amrik Singh brought his wife and three children from India to Utah in 1998. Singh worked for a family member at a restaurant, then eventually started his own restaurant, India Garden, in 2005. But it closed after difficulties with a business partner.

"God is watching and giving lesson all the time," Singh said about his first failed attempt at opening his own restaurant. He opened India Palace in 2007 with his family on staff.

"I call them my uncles but I don't know how we're all related," said Singh's 16-year-old son, Manpreet, who goes by Mani for short. Mani says they're all relatives at India Palace, but some individuals are from different villages in Punjab, but are still considered family. They're regularly getting new family in town to work at the restaurant, including a new family member this week.

The Singhs all work together and take close care of each other as well.

"We help each other, we talk to each other," said Singh, in a soft-spoken Indian accent.

In July, one of Singh's cooks, also a relative, found out that his 100-year-old mother was seriously ill in India. Singh paid for his cook's plane ticket to India so he could see his mother before she died. They bought the ticket immediately after they heard the news, without hesitation. Singh now has to pick up the slack himself in the kitchen.

"Any problems we share, we solve," he said.

But the Singh family at India Palace isn't exclusive. Amrik feels close to a lot of his employees.

"She worked just like us," Singh said about one of his employees, Kestlie Randall. "She is just like my family member."

Randall has been working at India Palace for only a few months and grew up with Singh's daughter Rupinder. She says Singh is "a good boss, but not only that, he's a good friend."

Randall also says that Singh's wife, Kaur, is very sweet to her. "She always tries to feed me," she says.

Singh even feels close to many of his customers. When customers come in, a smile shines through Singh's graying beard as he greets with his soft-spoken and kind, "My friend, welcome my friend," as he comes closer for a hug.

Singh is flattered that customers call him a friend, but is surprised that some customers have started getting even closer. "Now they start to saying 'my brother.' "

With as much as Singh remembers about his customers it's no wonder why some are beginning to feel like family. He remembers names very well, exactly when the last time they came in was, and exactly what they ordered and if they enjoyed it.

"They try to speak but before they could speak I am taking already their order," Singh explains. He says he knows what they ordered the last time they came and can anticipate what they may order this time.

It may be that Singh feels completely comfortable in Utah, which helps him befriend his employees and customers. He says living in a predominantly LDS area makes it easy for him and his Sikh family to live their own religion.

"No liquor, no smoke, no gambling," he says, adding that people in Utah like to work hard just like people in India. They attend the Sikh Temple of Utah in Salt Lake City and have invited many non-family employees and even some customers to attend worship services with them.

"I am very proud to be here," said Singh. He also says that when he visits India, he tells everyone how great the U.S. is, then when he visits other states he tells everyone how great Utah is.

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