WODONGA restaurateurs Paul and Jarunee Phabmixay first met when they were only 10.
Paul's father was a senior army officer elected to the Laos Parliament when it was overthrown by the Communist Party, forcing the family to flee landlocked Laos to neighbouring Thailand.
There, Paul met Jarunee before his family moved to Melbourne in the late 1970s.
"She was my sister's good friend and we stayed in touch with letters over the years," Paul said.
Twenty years later the couple married at Albury Civic Centre and settled in Wodonga, where Paul's parents, Khamthay and Raky, had chosen to call home.
After working as factory workers at Thurgoona and North Albury, Paul and Jarunee opened their first restaurant, Chao Thai, in Wodonga, in 2002.
They had passion, drive and some financial help from Paul's parents.
This month they will buy the High Street building that has housed their business for the past seven years.
"We are so grateful for the support of all our family and our customers; many have supported us right from the start," Jarunee said.
Parents to Nina and Joe, Paul and Jarunee became grandparents for the first time this year to Rico Spokes, 7 months.
Jarunee said she'd always had a passion for cooking.
"This is my calling," she said.
MEET MORE HOMEGROWN CHEFS:
What's your favourite dish, Jarunee?
What's your favourite season?
What are the staples in your pantry now?
Coconut cream, chilli, curry paste
What is your earliest cooking memory?
Making noodles with my mum - she made them by hand from rice flour. She sold them at the markets each day so we'd have to get up early, about 3am!
Which ingredients do you grow yourself?
Chilli, lemongrass and mint.
What is your favourite foodie ritual?
The restaurant is open seven nights but I like to make a spicy salad for the whole family. It's traditional and very healthy. I like getting my fresh ingredients at Arnold's.
What are you bingeing on TV? If anything.
No Netflix but I like cooking videos on YouTube.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Stir-fry eggs noodles and tom yum with fish.
What are you drinking at the moment?
Green tea every day, four or five cups.
163 High Street, Wodonga
Phone: (02) 6056 3133
Dinner, seven nights.