The people behind 13th Street restaurants

James Lemmon is the manager of Alder Street Fish Co. Lemmon graduated with a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management from Lane Community College. (Nate Barrett/Emerald)

James Lemmon is the manager of Alder Street Fish Co. Lemmon graduated with a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management from Lane Community College. (Nate Barrett/Emerald)

Posted by Sami Edge on Friday, Jan. 11 at 10:56 am.

Alder Street Fish Co.: James Lemmon (manager)

James Lemmon feels at home on Alder Street. As Manager of Alder Street Fish Co., he’s on Alder practically every day, but his connection to the restaurant is deeper than the average employee-workplace relationship. As a close personal friend and mentee of owner Bill Brand, Lemmon has had a hand in creating the business from scratch — some of the wood paneling on the walls even came from his grandfather’s backyard.

Lemmon joined the food industry because he loves the camaraderie he shares with people who come into his restaurant. After graduating with a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management from Lane Community College, he worked as a chef for catering companies and restaurants before the Alder Street Fish Co. opened in mid-November. Although this is Lemmon’s first time managing a restaurant, he is proud of the work he is accomplishing on Alder Street.

“The menu speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. “The food’s good.”

Café Carpe Diem: Don and Seonyoung Choi (owners)

Don Choi and his wife Seonyoung opened Café Carpe Diem as a business venture. After emigrating from Korea in 2004, Don worked as a semiconductor engineer and Seonyoung as a housewife. But Don’s true passion was entertaining friends and cooking on his backyard grill. To pursue his dream, Don learned the tricks of the restaurant business from a friend in Seattle. His goals were finally realized in October when Café Carpe Diem opened its doors for the first time.

For Seonyoung, one of the greatest perks of the restaurant business is the proximity to campus and constant interaction with students.

“I really like young energy. I love students. I love their eyes. Eyes contain many feelings. Sometimes I can get really positive feelings from them,” Seonyoung said.

Caspian Mediterranean Restaurant: Lenna Bortnick (employee)

For Lenna Bortnick, Caspian Mediterranean Restaurant is like a second home. After working there for two years, she feels like she has known the restaurant, and the people who work there, her whole life.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” she said. “I like working here because it’s a family owned restaurant and everybody is really close.”

Bortnick started working in the food industry because of its entrepreneurial opportunities. With hard work and perseverance, she believes that she can work her way up from cashier to someday managing or owning her own business. Bortnick believes that her position at Caspian is unique because of the restaurant’s intimate and accommodating environment.

“I’m never going to have another job like this in my life, I know that,” Bortnick said.

Noodle Head: Tony Chulacharitta (co-owner)

Tony Chulacharitta has cooking in his veins. As a child in Thailand, he was taught to cook by his grandmother. At the age of 17 he began his formal training in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher, working his way up through the ranks until he became a cook and then a chef. When he immigrated to the United States he maintained his family ties with cooking, and in 2000 he opened the first Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine in Portland as a co-owner with his aunt.

“(It’s) part of my family. You know Thai people, we love cooking,” Chulacharitta said.

After expanding Sweet Basil to two new locations in Eugene, Chulacharitta decided to sell the restaurants and begin with a new business venture aimed specifically at providing fast, good meals for busy students – Noodle Head. Although he is happy owning Noodle Head at the moment, Chulacharitta is eager for the potential that the future holds.

“We’re happy to be here for sure, but we’re also looking forward to opening another one if we have a good opportunity,” he said.

East Meets West: Jane Huang (co-owner)

As a member of the Eugene’s Chinese Christian Church, Jane Huangfinds herself interacting with Chinese international students on a regular basis. As an emigrant from China herself, Huang took it upon herself to invite international students into her home, offering home cooked traditional Chinese cuisine as a remedy for homesickness. Last December the opportunity came to expand her comfort kitchen into a full-fledged restaurant and East Meets West was born.

Although international students may have been the driving force behind opening the restaurant, Huang stresses the restaurant’s atmosphere of inclusivity for all. East Meets West was designed to provide a home-cooked-meal sentiment for international students and to offer all students a traditional alternative to the Americanized Chinese cuisine popular in Western culture.

“I just want to do traditional, authentic Chinese food,” Huang said.