Fans of Asian cuisine will be able to satisfy their craving starting Thursday with the opening of the Panda Kitchen restaurant at 107 W. Grand in Hillsboro.
Fei “George” Yang, owner of the new eatery, has opened restaurants with the same name in Hutchinson seven years ago and Hesston three years ago.
“I just want to invite everybody to come in and try the food,” he said last week as workers were putting in the finishing touches to the interior. “If they need anything, just tell me about it. I want to make everybody happy.”
Yang, 38, a native of China with 21 years of experience in the restaurant business, came to the U.S. in 1998 in part to open a restaurant. He settled in New Orleans, where he began working in a Panda Kitchen owned by a friend.
“I worked for my friend for seven or eight years, then I bought the restaurant,” he said.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Yang’s sister relocated in Hutchinson. He visited her there several times and decided to move to Hutchinson and open a restaurant there.
It wasn’t long before he sensed the opportunity to expand.
“My friend was working in Hesston for Agco,” Yang said. “He told me the people in Hesston would be very good for a restaurant. He told me to come and try to open a restaurant in Hesston.”
Yang credits Clint Seibel, Hillsboro’s economic development director, for helping him open his restaurant in Hillsboro.
“He told me customers (from Hillsboro) probably wouldn’t drive to (Hesston), and I should open a restaurant here,” Yang said.
It took about a year-and-a-half before the project came to fruition.
Hillsboro’s Panda Kitchen will operate much like Hesston’s. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., customers can choose from a variety of fresh Asian dishes from a buffet, and eat them either in the restaurant or carry them out.
From 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., customers can order off a menu; the dinner buffet will begin at 4:30 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m.
Yang said he has taken the advice of his wife, Julie, to make sure customers can come in and satisfy their appetites quickly if the want to.
“No need to wait, just come in and get the food,” he said. “It’s easy.”