Jamyang Gyalkha was born and raised in Nyashi, Dege. Nyashi is a remote village in the vicinity of Dege town. It had no road and electricity. Dege being one of the most important towns in the Kham province of Eastern Tibet and the heart of Khampa culture.
Of his childhood, Gyalkha remembers himself and his family members struggling to make ends meet just like other Nyashi inhabitants and most Tibetans living under strict communist rule and commune system. Once the commune system was abolished and people were given more control of their livelihood, the situation improved for everyone including his family. Gyalkha remembers that his family reared horses, lambs and yaks as they were farmers. His childhood memories are those of the times he spent taking care of these animals. Once he became a bit older, seeing not much future in his native village and hoping to improve prospects both for himself and his family, in 1997, he managed to escape to Nepal. Subsequently, in 1999, he came to the United States.
In his early years in the US, Gyalkha struggled a lot trying to adapt to a new culture and a new land. Back then, there were not many Tibetans in the US. Since he had no formal education, language was a big impediment. Everything, from things as simple as daily commute, was a challenge. Because of this, he did not have many choices too when it came to employment. In his first year in the US, Gyalkha worked in a Chinese restaurant as a dishwasher. After that, he worked in some Tibetan stores and restaurants.
In 2000, he decided to move to San Francisco, California. There he worked in a very good western restaurant for more than seven years. He worked his way up from being a prep cook to line cook and then subsequently, to a sous chef. Although he has no formal training, due to his passion and dedication, he learned a lot about food and cooking. This experience, he finds is very relevant and useful because it enables him to appreciate the taste and preferences of his patrons.
David Stevens, who was the head chef, mentored and taught Gyalka everything he knows today about culinary art and restaurant business. And this, he did with utmost care and kindness just like a father teaches his son the family business. Gyalkha is very grateful to him and feels very fortunate to learn from such a kind and learned master.
During this period, Gyalka had this dream of setting up a Tibetan restaurant because he saw that there were a lot of people who knew about Tibetan people and their culture; people who were interested in and supported Tibetans. He shared this dream with a friend many years before. Incidentally, he too had the same dream. However, circumstances did not favour such a venture until mid-2013 when they saw the current premises and both decided that it was the most opportune time to make their dream a reality. So they put together all the resources they could to make this dream come true despite the fact that they both came from very humble beginnings and background.
After three years of partnership, Gyalkha has decided to go solo. Currently, he is running the restaurant with help of his wife Tselha. As restaurateurs, their main focus is to make their patrons happy by serving fresh and tasty food. However, they hope to extend it beyond the culinary experience and also give them a taste of Tibetan culture through traditional Tibetan art and hospitality. This spirit is reflected in the menu, decoration and customer service ethos of the restaurant. Due to their personal experiences of struggle and hardship, they understand the importance of respect, appreciation and humanity.
They hope their restaurant venture is a success so that they are able to help their families and relatives back in Nepal and Tibet. Even if they may not be able to benefit the Tibetan nation, they hope to at least make a difference in lives of their near and dear ones. As they are the only lucky ones in their families who have been able to migrate to the US and live their American dreams, like other migrants, they too hold the responsibility to support their families back home. Even before they started this venture, they have been sending back a major portion of their earnings to support their extended families.
Gyalkha has six siblings (brothers and sisters). So far he has managed to help them to migrate to Nepal from Tibet. He has also been able to financially support his eight nieces and nephews’ who are currently studying in India in (ranging from K7 to college students). As they grow up, expenses are also multiplying. These include paying school fees, travel expenses between Nepal and India where most Tibetan schools are, and their pocket money. But Gyalkha feels happy that he has been able to do something to help his family. If possible, he hopes to help his fellow countrymen who are experiencing similar hardships and struggle in exile. He hopes to do something for his country.
When he looks back and reminisces his life and journey from a remote village which had no road and electricity and where he had to go on horseback for hours even to buy daily necessities to becoming who he is today and living the American dream, he feels very fortunate and joyous.
Tashi Delek to All!