It was a promise to his daughter that led Jinsu Kim to open Jin's Place on the Princes Highway in Corrimal.
"A long time ago, I made a promise with my daughter," he said.
"She said, 'Dad, when I turn 12, can you open your shop?'"
At that time, Mr Kim was working at different sushi restaurants in Sydney and the Illawarra, having previously worked in restaurants and hotels in Sydney and the Gold Coast.
But he wasn't ready to strike out on his own, with the words of his mother - who warned him about long hours and hard work in kitchens - still ringing in his ears.
Growing up in Korea, Mr Kim watched his mother and father work long hours and remembers one particular night when his mum called to say they would both be home late.
He had watched his mother working away in front of the stove and decided that night to put what he had learned from her into practice.
"I was six, I was so hungry," he said.
Turning on the stove, Mr Kim cooked his first meal - a fried egg - against his parent's instructions.
"My mum was always talking about, I shouldn't let you cook," he said.
As cook in a retirement home, Mr Kim's mother didn't want her son to work the long hours she did, with no air-conditioning, freezing in the winters and sweltering in the summer.
"That was my background - get a good job, good university, get an office job, never work in a factory like that," he said.
A tough beginning
While he was at university, Mr Kim came to Gold Coast to study English, and with little money ended up working at restaurants and convenience stores.
Days from getting on to his return flight to Korea and with almost no money left, Mr Kim saw an ad - in Korean - for a kitchen hand job in a shopping mall while waiting for the bus.
With his luggage in one hand and no phone or resume, he convinced them to give him the job and was told to return the next day.
Without accommodation as he was at the end of his time in Australia, he spent that night sleeping on a park bench and returned to get his start in a kitchen.
While it was a rough start, this was a turning point for Mr Kim, who ditched his Korean university degree and forged a career as a cook along the east coast.
He found working in Australian restaurants was a quite different from the Korean kitchens his mother warned him against, with customers showing their appreciation to chefs with smiles and thank yous.
And there was one particular customer that stood out.
"She had a sweet smile, I remember that," Mr Kim recalled of the young woman, Kristy. He asked his manager who she was and was dissuaded from pursuing it any further.
But today, Kristy - his wife - is sitting next to him as the pair begin to embark on their next challenge.
Creating Jin's Place
In 2021, Mr Kim fulfilled his promise to his daughter to open his own restaurant, with the popular Jin's Place.
It was largely takeaway, as COVID restrictions were in place, with seating severely limited due to social distancing requirements.
This gave Mr Kim a chance to test his menu, introducing Korean stir fries and soups as well as the more familiar sushi and Japanese dishes.
"What I'm doing is for Western people's tastes, not too spicy, not too salty," he said.
The trials enabled him to finesse the menu and he now has a dedicated following, especially in the community Facebook groups that thrived during COVID.
"After about eight months it was not very busy, very quiet, but one day a local lady came, her name is Julie, and she said, 'Can I take a picture with you?'," he said.
The woman posted the photo and a brief write-up of the restaurant to the local Facebook group, and the next day he said it was as if a fire had broken out.
Customers queued up to get into his store, which can barely fit a dozen people, and Jin's Place became known well beyond Corrimal, drawing in customers from Dapto and further afield.
Having outgrown the small shop in Corrimal, in a few days the couple will get the keys to a shop in Thirroul, which they plan to open early next year.
They will run a cafe service during the day and a restaurant in the evening, serving what Mr Kim calls Korean street food or "family" style cooking.
While the clientele in Thirroul may be a bit different than his regulars in Corrimal, Mr Kim said he plans to remain accessible and step out from behind the kitchen to share not just food, but a little bit of his culture as well.
"There was a gentleman coming in at 87 years old, eating by himself, my heart was breaking," Mr Kim said - remarking it would be unheard of in Korea for elderly relatives to eat without family members.
"That's why I said on Facebook, if you come with grandma or grandpa, you'll get a 10 per cent discount."
With a knack for remembering faces and names and matching them with orders, Mr Kim said he hopes to welcome many of his regulars to his Thirroul location once it's up and running.
And there is one order he's never forgetting - Kristy's first.
"Bacon and egg roll, with an extra egg - well done - and barbecue sauce," he said.