As a refugee of Laos, Cho Venevongsa faced an uphill battle opening Wasabi, his first sushi restaurant, in 1999. Sushi purists would either berate his food or avoid his restaurant altogether, despite Cho’s years of experience of working in a sushi restaurant. And while Cho had gained a deep understanding of the firmly-rooted traditions and techniques of making sushi, western palettes were still skeptical of the Japanese staple.
When Cho first opened Wasabi in Winnipeg’s iconic Osborne Village, it was one of four sushi restaurants in the city, which made sourcing things like traditional wooden sushi plates especially difficult. Not one to be discouraged, Cho enlisted the help of his family and made all of the wooden plates used at Wasabi by hand. From there, a culinary empire was built brick-by-brick, eventually leading to two Wasabi restaurants, three Chosabi locations, and the opening of Cho Ichi Ramen, their latest restaurant venture, in 2018.
Over the last 20 years, Cho and his wife Tracy have found consistent success through a commitment to using the finest quality ingredients, a desire to learn and innovate, and an unrelenting passion for traditional cooking techniques.