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'It's our passion' | Gai 'N Rice opening new eatery in Elk Grove

The two sisters are overcoming a kitchen fire that has temporarily closed their Freeport location by doubling down on themselves and expanding their business.

ELK GROVE, Calif. — Two sisters are doubling down on themselves to open up a new eatery in Elk Grove. But the move isn't a replacement, the sisters are responding to adversity by expanding their popular eatery, Gai 'N Rice.

Sonya Chen and Kade Phian are no strangers to the culinary world. 

"Yeah, this is in our blood," said Phian.

"Yeah, it's our passion," added Chen.

Chen and Phian grew up in the restaurant industry, having roots that go back to their grandfather opening a restaurant in Thailand.

Locally, they're a staple in the Freeport area of Sacramento with their trademark chicken and rice dishes, curries, noodle soup and basil chicken. However, a fire in the kitchen temporarily closed the eatery back in October, leaving a void in the community and in some hungry customers' stomachs.

"Since we closed from the fire, we get messages almost every day, when were we gonna reopen? They want to continue to support," said Phian.

"We got so devastated after that and then when we see the new messages daily, oh my God, (it was) lighting up our hearts so much," said Chen.

The rally from the community and positive messages pushed the sisters forward, all the way to Elk Grove. The new eatery is settled in the former home of Tea Rex. The sisters gave a big shout out to their broker, Brian, for helping them find it. 

"We had Elk Grove-based customers that would be willing to travel to our Sacramento location, you know? So when we first announced that we're coming to Elk Grove, wow, they are so excited. They gave us such a great response," said Chen.

That being said, the Elk Grove site isn't a replacement. It's an expansion. The sisters said the Freeport site is being rebuilt to open again one day. 

For anyone new to the eatery, the sisters suggest trying the classic chicken and rice plate, a popular order made with a family recipe. However, the fried chicken plate is popular as well. Regardless of what you get for the main course, Chen and Phian both recommend saving room for their mango with sticky rice desert.

"I work in the kitchen, so I'm very proud of every dish I present to customer," said Phian. "When I cook and prepare the food, I feel like I'm feeding my family, so I put a lot of love and passion to it"

"Serving great food, enjoying it, it's like it's happiness... When you serve customers and they actually enjoy your food -- oh my god, the feeling, it's amazing. It's overwhelming," said Chen.

Gai 'N Rice opens for the first time Elk Grove on May 27 at 11 a.m. It's located at 2475 Elk Grove Blvd Suite 150.

Credit: Sonya Chen/Kade Phian


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