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Follow Your Star

Sami Lal at the Star of India restaurant / Image by Arkansas Times

Volume 4 Issue 2 Fall-Winter 2017-18
The following article is a compilation of excerpts transcribed by Madison Monroe from Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, Episode 45



ami Lal was born in Punjab, India. The only son to work with his father in the family owned grocery store, he helped to provide an income for his family of eight until he was in his mid-twenties. He never graduated high school, yet he speaks several languages and has a resume that includes grocery clerk, dishwasher, chef, food taster, hotel worker, restaurant business partner and, finally, owner. Sami attributes his success to God, but he always said yes to life and was never afraid to follow his star.

When he was in his early twenties, a friend who was leaving India asked Sami to care for his mother, vowing that one day he would pay Sami for his caretaking. Sami bought her groceries and made sure she had money. Sami spent years looking after the old woman.

At 26, Sami traveled to Germany. His friend, impressed with Sami’s integrity, kept his promise by offering Sami a job as a dishwasher in his restaurant. Sami said yes. For the next several years Sami went from dishwasher to head chef to food taster in his friend’s establishment. These years afforded Sami hands on training for every position in a restaurant. Having worked his way to the top, Sami gained insight into each position and how to manage the employees in that position. It was a knowledge he would put to use years later.

For three years Sami worked in the German restaurant cooking continental cuisine. He could likely be there still, save a lifelong desire to go to America. In fourth grade, he read a book about the United States. He dreamed of the chance to come to America and the possibility of pursuing his destiny in the land of opportunity. He determined that “if the Lord is blessing me,” I will go to America.

In 1982, Sami arrived in Dallas, Texas in the middle of summer with only the clothes on his back…winter clothes. He had no family, no connections, no job and no money. What he did have was a toothache. Since his only mode of transportation was walking, he walked until he found a dentist office. The dentist treated him for free. He inquired where Sami worked, to which Sami replied, “Nowhere.” The dentist asked why he was in winter clothes and Sami replied that those were all the clothes he had. Sami asked the dentist to help him find a job and he replied, “No problem.”

One of the dentist’s friends hired Sami to work at a hotel. He carried luggage, cleaned rooms, helped guests and anything else that was asked of him. Although grateful for the chance to earn money, Sami felt frustrated, unable to use his cooking skills. One day, a man from South Africa asked him where he was from and what he wanted to do. Sami replied that he was from India and had restaurant experience. The man was looking for a partner in his Indian Restaurant business and invited Sami to join him.

For a decade, the business thrived and Sami became well known to the patrons for his food and his inviting demeanor. People visiting Dallas from Little Rock, would selfishly encourage him to open a restaurant in Little Rock. Around 1990, the landlords informed the partners that they were not renewing their lease. They had two years to close down. Sami started scouting locations in Little Rock to open his own restaurant. For over a year, he made the drive every week from Dallas to look at possible locations. Finally, in 1993, he opened Star of India.

He is now open 363 days a year and is happy to be there. He feels as if his art of cooking is a gift from God, and he cooks with a worshipful attitude. He cooks healthy food with purpose and love. He calls his customers by name and considers them his family. He never takes a vacation because he would miss the friends that come to see him and eat his food.

It seems Sami has followed his star all the way home. brave flag

The previous article is a compilation of excerpts transcribed from Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, FlagandBanner’s radio show interview with Sami Lal, owner of Star of India Restaurant which aired July 21, 2017. We chose this interview because of Sami’s story of a brave new beginning. If you would like to hear the full interview, the podcast can be found by clicking ‘Radio Show’ on the top navigation bar at flagandbanner.com.

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