Days are busy at new eatery

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson ( May 12/00) - A solid clientele is every businessowner's dream.

But the flood of customers at Bill Der's new restaurant in Fort Simpson has been admittedly overwhelming.

"I didn't expect it would be that busy," he said, while seated at one of his tables during a relatively quiet period.

"Like yesterday, it never stopped. People just keep pouring in and the phone rings off the hook. It really makes me feel good."

Yes, it seems the word has spread quickly about the new source of cuisine in town and the restaurant's proprietor is rapidly gaining recognition. Der said he has been receiving compliments ever since his doors opened last week.

"Even when I walk on the street everybody says 'Hi, you've got really good food.' So I'm quite happy," he said, adding he's still working on improving various aspects of his establishment.

And work he does. Der arrives at the Sub-Arctic Wok by 7 a.m. and locks up at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Even after the patrons have gone, Der continues to work on the books and organize things.

"I don't mind working hard ... last night I was washing tablecloths," he said, adding more have been ordered.

Der has already learned a timely lesson about ordering things in Fort Simpson -- break-up is a fact of life. He has spent between $3,000 and $4,000 on freight alone since he's opened, he said.

"It's very expensive. I pay more, but I've got no choice," he said, smiling through the frustration.

Although he is new to Fort Simpson, he is by no means new to the North. Having been as far north as Inuvik in 1985, Der spent several years in Yellowknife and Hay River as a cook. Most recently he had been working in Fort Liard.

He learned the art of oriental cooking from his parents, who emigrated from China to Edmonton 35 years ago. He said he's always wanted to open his own restaurant.

"It's the only way to serve the people," he said. "I feel Fort Simpson has good potential. I like the people around here since I worked in Fort Liard."

He and his wife Jeanette now employ three cooks, six waitresses and two dishwashers.

"It's a big payroll but I need it for now," he said.

When pressed for his specialty, he said he considers everything on his menu special. He's also quite proud of the wide selection he offers. Since he eats there all the time, it keeps him from eating the same thing over and over again.

"There's always different combinations. I never feel tired or anything like that," he said.

That being said, he's not opposed to local traditional dishes, he noted.

"I tried all kinds of wild meat. I really liked it," he said.