Balancing Work and School: Local Café Owner Does It All

Blake Hardman

Owning and operating a local business is hard enough on its own. Add being a full-time graduate student to this equation, and you have the rigorous life of Chris Le, owner and general manager of the Coriander Café.

Tightly fit into the corner of Buchanan Avenue and White Street, the Coriander Café is a Vietnamese restaurant located in the heart of Campus Corner. While their freshly bought ingredients and unique Asian cuisine brings customers to the door, the hard work of Chris Le is what ultimately makes them stay.

“We opened Sept. 3, in 2010. I used to work here 80 hours a week for the first couple years just to make sure I didn’t fail. Then after the first couple of years I got to scale back, but then started going to grad school” Le said.

Le received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma while working full-time in the restaurant industry. Le is now pursuing a master’s degree in architecture as a full-time graduate student.

“Last semester I was enrolled in 16 hours. Just nine hours is considered full-time for a graduate student, and this isn’t an easy degree by any means” Le said. “It’s a lot to juggle, but I know I’m capable of attaining success in both aspects” he said.

On top of owning and operating his café and being a graduate student, Le also participates in water research work outside of the country.

“This place has allowed me do travel to Africa to further my work in water research. My last visit I presented my work to the state department, which has always been on my bucket list” said Le.

Meghan McGhee, a server at the Coriander Café for the last three years, can see that Le’s hard work translates to the performance of his staff.

“We understand how much he has on his plate, but still invests so much time and effort into this place. I think this had made us all invest more into the restaurant” McGhee said.