Outside Looking In

He left an impression

Every so often someone or something comes into your life and leaves a lasting impression. A couple of years ago, I had been in Minneota to interview someone for a story I was working on

. As I was returning home, I was in the mood for my favorite dish, Chicken Lo Mein. It was suggested to me by several Minneota residents to try Hunan Lion in downtown Marshall. I'm not usually fussy when it comes to food, but I am fussy when it comes to my favorite food.

And every place I've ever ordered it has been prepared in a different way. Hunan Lion's preparation of Chicken Lo Mein is by far the best I've ever tasted. But that's not the only reason I've continued to dine there for lunch.

My lasting impression was the man who worked there that could handle the role of waiter, busboy and cashier more efficiently than three people could. The man, who was referred to as "Vit", worked as though his hair was on fire; even though he was bald. The restaurant was busy this particular day, yet he was the only one literally running around.

"Are the other workers on break, or did they call in sick?" we asked Vit, who looked at us and just smiled. We were confused. Until we dined there the next time and the scene was virtually the same did we learn that this one man was fully capable of doing the work of three people. You would expect a lengthy wait to place an order, for your beverage and food to arrive, or to pay your bill with just one man performing all these tasks. It was just the opposite.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" one man seated near us asked, while we all turned to watch Vit scamper to the kitchen to retrieve some prepared dishes.

We were informed that there are other waiters and cashiers there, but Vit was the face of the place. If you were a repeat customer there, Vit would call out your previous order before you had a chance to sit down in case a customer would request the same dish.

It's hard to remember where I parked the car, yet this man recalled everyone's previous order just by recognizing their face. "Where are you from?" he asked the first time I ate there. When I told him I lived in Willmar, he reached inside a glass case at the front counter and handed me two pieces of cheesecake.

"You have a long drive home. Take these for the ride," he insisted. Vit had one speed; quick. And he had one expression; a welcoming smile. Pravit "Vit" Rojawat passed away suddenly at his home in Marshall on Jan. 9. He was 58 years old. Upon hearing the news, I was devastated.

He will always leave a lasting impression on me, although I hardly got to know anything about him. Reading his obituary, I learned he was an accomplished artist who was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and moved to Marshall in 1991. His sister and brother-in-law, Sarah and Joe Ektanitphong, opened Hunan Lion in 1992 and Vit had been working there since then. Many of Vit's paintings are hung in the restaurant, which will now act as a memorial to him. It's going to take more than one person to replace Vit at the restaurant. But no one will ever be able to replace the lasting impression he left on many.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.

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The Minneota Mascot
Address: 201 N. Jefferson
Minneota, MN 56264

Phone:(507) 872-6492