Linh Lee has had to overcome her share of obstacles in life. Coming to a foreign country, building a business, and pleasing her demanding grandmother in the kitchen! One day, Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives featured her restaurant to a national audience and her business exploded! Listen to her amazing story of how she not only overcomes obstacles but thrives.
Capital City BBQ Facebook Page
1026 W Saginaw St,
Lansing, MI 48915
Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. And welcome to the show. My name is Cliff DuVernois. Imagine my surprise. As I’m watching TV one night, I’m on the food network and there appears a woman who is running a great restaurant in Lansing, Michigan. And I said to myself, self, I want to have her on the show. I want to share her story. Is this all I reached out to her? She agreed. And here she is, ladies and gentlemen, please. Welcome to the show. The owner of the capital city BBQ located in Lansing, Michigan. Linh Lee. Linh, how are you?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:00:58] I’m doing well, how you do?
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:00] I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you grew up.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:01:05] I am born and raised in Vietnam, my mother and my father, a American soldier. And that’s why I’m here in United States.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:16] And when did you come to the US?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:01:18] I came to US this when I was about written AIDAP 17 and that’s quite a long ago, 30 plus years ago.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:29] Wow. And what brought you to Michigan?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:01:33] actually we don’t have any choice because the sponsor, He was living Michigan and they don’t want a sponsor. My family and I do Michigan. And then I believe I live in Michigan. The day I arrived up United States. Don’t go nowhere. Yeah. That’s stuck in here. Yeah.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:55] Okay. how did you get into the restaurant business?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:01:58] Well, just get ludicrous about me. what bone and race in Vietnam by my grandmother. at the age of eight, you, Oh, I already know how to, because. That’s why C have to teach me to cook because you always say that I have to learn how to, and later on, I can cook for my husband, that what my grandma, and when I read the eight, I know how to cook. I’m not talking about a scramble eight over easier.
I’m talking a meal. I make the meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner for the family. Am CE my Beth teacher, C E my life and Joel, and from that, I, I love to cook. I love to cook. however, I used to tell her, I guess, grandma, please don’t make me cook because when I go out, I will be looking for them and married a guy that really rich.
Then they can cook for me and take me out. But actually now I cook for a whole community. restaurant is always a part of my life. I actually did not get into the restaurant right away in 2008. I bought the store like a location right now at the cell phone store. And if you ask me, do I know anything about electronic stuff? I really don’t know. I really don’t know nothing, but I’m just, I love, I am a business woman.
I, go up with the bloods and sign me a, a business person, a good leader, chief, people just like I trusted myself. and to 2011, I. One to make my grandma and that’s was I stopped thinking about build the restaurant. That’s what I had posted in that beer wrestler restaurant for me, because I want my Rams and my grandma make it happen.
And that’s what, how I’m getting to the restaurant. Does it.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:10] So then your grandmother really has really influenced your love of cooking.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:04:15] yes, sir. C would not let me get away with nothing. you know, we have not tapped the light very easy. Like here we cook, what. you know, like fire wood and we would, I have to stain right there and watching every item, any dish that I make, no mistake. if I fail, see, will be right there with me to make it to success. And. Every time nowadays, when I cook, I cook with love. I put so much love on my food because I always see all what, tell me this. when you become a shop renumber, you not only married to one, man, you remarried to the whole community with me.
Yes. Wouldn’t mean, you know, lice. One person like, Oh, I don’t want spicy. I’m not a person say I don’t want cheese. Oh, Annapolis. And another customer will be, you know, I have to make, what does the mode require? And that was the Atlantic to me, that you married to the whole community. And that’s what I always say.
I am a wife for the whole community and I love it. I love it. That makes me happy.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:36] So when you decided to. Open up your restaurant back in 2011, why did you, what was your, what was some of your thinking behind putting together, you know, the menu and the type of foods that you were going to be offering?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:05:51] no stop bill building out the restaurant was, 2011, but. Capitol city barbecue did not bone until 2015, June 3rd, 2015. That Capitol city BBQ were bomb. in that, before though years took me feel, yeah, I went to school to learn, About the public pills. because like I say, early, my dad, he a us soldier.
he from Texas inside my blessed have his blessed and that’s how I won. I won, Come by to Hussein together because that’s what, who I am. I am half Vietnamese and I’m a half American, and I want to combine together to make a view to the world. The more beautiful dish that everyone will be enjoy at the moment.
Four. Yeah, I coming up with all kinds of barbecue sauce, it believe or not. I, I, I, I make about 50 different kinds of barbecue sauce, but in Indiana, I really have four to pass all my customer, approval from my customer. With all the foods you put it together, assau is always, you can find everything is about the same, which is, you know, how SU ho how, how you can combine though meet together with the poor, or barbecue together.
And, though those stuck right there, it takes a lot of time. And, Requirement does have to be patient in specify with fraction and love.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:07:43] Definitely. And I, I I’ll share this with you. I spent the last 20 years living in Southern California and I’ll have to admit that I think the, I think the Asian influence, the Asian fusion. into food is some of my, some of my most favorite. So, you being able to translate, your, you know, these two different styles of cooking into one has obviously been a big, big success for you.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:08:12] yeah, since this, some day I could not even keep up with. All the dish. I have to make focus summer. I love it. I love, but I love my customer. I love so much. I love what I’m working. Dawa in happened to me every day because you know, it always, we always say, in not the happiness, the happiness, is that what you. And that’s what happened happy. And when I’m happy, what I’m doing, I feel I’m successful. And I own everything from the community, community. So wonderful to me community just saying, hi me. and I feel the love, the love that, you know, I don’t know how I describe it. Like, like compare what our ocean cannot be.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:09:00] Yes, definitely. So you started the capital city, barbecue. You’re cooking. And obviously you’re cooking really well because one day, the production crew from, Guy Fieri and, the Diners, Drive ins, and Dives. They’re they’re filming in your restaurant. Talk to us a little bit about, when you got that phone call, how did you, how did you feel about that?
What did you think about that?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:09:24] They only give me two weeks notice they give me two weeks notice. actually, the lady that the producer, private Sanford producer, from, Triple D’s call the restaurant around in towels. restaurant around town. And she asked though, no restaurant. I remember he told me that, in her 20 plus years in her career she never see any restaurant that refer.
To another restaurant, lights, she said she called restaurant in all those two restaurants, restaurants refer it to Capital City BBQ. And she said, that’s wonderful because you know how restaurants will not want another restaurant name on that. And sequel Macy say, we could lie to. We are from duper days and, you know, and quit life to, seem you and, you know, arrive new, you know, guy fairy.
And I’m like, ah, is that the guy that eats a lot on the show? You know,
I report him. And the CC LeBron’s. He said, yeah, I say, no, I’m not doing that because, I know what I, I, I don’t want us to move whites so long. I want the food, my food is coming out hat and, you know, sofas. And in dance C say it is, it is the better, better opportunity for you. If you, you know, take this offer, you know, let us come.
I say, how long would you give me the time he said to with, Oh no. Oh no. But finally I did. Oh my God. Oh my God. they make it me too close Saturday and they feed me whole Saturday. That’s an all get in a temperature in the store about a hundred degrees and they, no, no, you cannot turn the hood on to hit all the air out.
And absolutely they eat about seven or eight camera pointed to my fight. And I’m like, can I take a break? And it whole days, whole day, Saturday, and then a half day on Sunday and half day, Monday. And we late. They are not let us know what going on. You know, they unhooked the phone from customer call and you know, like quiet then. but then Tuesday, that’s what guy very arise. the most in my lifetime to met me and fight to fight. And I’m so excited. I’m so exciting when I welcome him to my Russell, he told me that, he told me he got in and I say, mr. Prairie, I saw you eats a lot on the TV. So what do you are not getting any weight? I like that. I cannot believe I said that, but that’s who I am. you know, in a good gang, went ham. Oh my God, he can eat. He can eat. Oh my God. He can eat. And so excited to see him, eat a beautiful opportunity to welcome. Have the two per day. guide ferry to our restaurant. from that point forward, our restaurants keep busy, keep going, just like he pick out a sandwich that.
Combined between two pushing Asian and American. in most of the time a customer order, Natha more popular, signature sandwich from that restaurant.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:18] Yeah. And I’ve always wondered that too. Whenever I’ve seen that show. The amount of food, that guy eats. I always wondered if he, like, you know, goes for a run like a 10 mile run every day, or if he’s working on a gym all the time, I don’t understand how you know, he’s not, you know, 500 pounds.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:13:34] I just wanna tell you some secrets from him. he hit, hit, hit, hit he and get the plan. I saw the plan though.
You know, he playing on the vegetable and the blender. And I say, I look I say, No, that’s all guy Perry and Dan pop up Rachel,
for that reason, I think he keeps himself in a very good ship yes, I saw a, I say, okay, I’m going to make.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:14:04] now. So after they get done filming in your restaurant and the, you know, the episode aired you and you kind of alluded to this before, but things just must’ve went crazy in your restaurant. Cause now everybody, I mean, it’s, it’s national TV and it’s not. It’s not like a 32nd commercial. I mean, you’re, you’re in front of everybody’s in front of millions of Americans faces for like 10 minutes.
So what was, you know, what was it like in the aftermath of, of that episode coming out? What happened to your restaurant then?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:14:34] got some I head to wait. Oh my God. This the long line waiting outside way out the stoplight. And my hand is so second, because the thing that non-stop printing, printing, printing, and my hand is sucking. I say, I don’t know what I’m going to do with what they get, go fuck with it. You know, because I’m like, I don’t want this little way that I am.
And I just like so overwhelming in the soul at signing. And so the same. I do not rely to have a bad review if I do something wrong. Yes. But if like that and I’m like, Oh my God. And I had to come in now and how much I to customer, for the long way, but doesn’t, let’s say no, no worry. We will wait. They wait for only for one sandwich for an hour.
I will not wait for in my jam with one hour,
but that’s no mobile waiting for one hour for that sandwich. And I have some customer need in Jackson, Jackson. Yeah. And he called fully liberate, just one sandwich to Jackson. Yes, on, Al Vassi our signature of the sandwich love Mo popular everywhere. but, it is, it is really, really so exciting and beautiful.
and I’m hopefully that he very primal to me. He will be come back, returned back to visit me. Yeah. told me, yeah, he me, before he took up, he went back to the kitchen and he wrapped me around my shoulder. And what would he mouth the door he say he will be back. Yeah.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:27] Nice. Nice. I do want to talk about something in, in doing some research for, our conversation today, because before you talked about. the, the love that you have for cooking, the love that you have for the community. And it’s like, it’s like, you’re married to the community, but it looks like, earlier this year that somebody really sabotaged your business
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:16:53] Okay.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:16:54] and the community really rallied around you to, to help you keep your doors open.
Can you, can you share with us a little bit about that?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:17:01] Yes. that person, well, my ex-boyfriend, the , very bad. I, you know, Sometime just have to understand eight, then not work it out, then it doesn’t matter what you try or not is still not look it out. it take a long time before I make my dishes and they have to break up in that will happen last year in July.
And he just, he just want to take everything away. For me, I’m
fine with them. he, he, he stole the company smoker. and then on December few day before I agree, number that was December 18 and last year last, he. So our company phone number and he left the message on the phone. He pulled that number out and he left a message that the business will call and tomorrow.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:18:00] Oh, my God.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:18:02] Yeah. And that works seven days before Christmas. the, the. I I’m actually, I about to give up, I about to give out, I got them. I will on my children because Christmas, all my children come home and I sat them down and I told them that, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Everything. A, my rim is upside down.
and, But the Curan day. And I look at it, they’ll fight and I, I promise myself, no, I’m not doing this until I try to get the phone back, but I could not the number back. I could not get it. I decided to get the new number and I’m told myself I’m not.
And for B joined my restaurant. This is my baby. This is my dream. And I’m, I’m not doing this. And that’s what, the community, better than, and supporting me after I got the new number. It’s all I got to do is I posted in a fight book and I ask us more. This is my new number, play this out. The old number.
And Nathan I, what up with the radio contract, need the TV, new tan, contact me about it and do I’m scared. I’m really scared. I’m scared of everything. Yeah. I’m like, I just want to let my community know I have a new number, but the masses, he left a very hurtful. Rarely very painful and spousal seven days before Christmas, my restaurant had no purse her.
Yeah. I have no business at all. I just sit in here empty spot and my TA did drop it now.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:19:43] But thanks to, you know, being on the news, being on the radio or whatnot, you really got the word out that your restaurant is still open and the community really did show up.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:19:54] Yeah, community. Like I say, only I cook, I own the Capitol city barbecue, but actually community owned the capital C Bubba, Q a what? Al community capital city, barbecue, and myself and my family not survive. We already showed that long ago. But because the community that what I will be proud of myself, it doesn’t matter what happened.
I’m not giving up and I continue in full for that.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:20:28] Nice. I absolutely love it. What I want to do is I want to ask you that if somebody were, if somebody were to come to your restaurant, let’s say they’ve never been there before, but they want to come and check you out. What would be like maybe like three dishes that you would recommend that people should try.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:20:44] Okay.
Have never forgot about, don’t forget about first, the same with the signature of the sandwich. Like I very happy the bond me. I promise to you, it will be Mel into your mouth. You you’ll be like, wow. Yeah, you would say, wow. freak out on me. on the side, if you’re really, really hungry, I will make you a beautiful sandwich that core, the very big sandwich, but combine all the meat together.
It called banya in meaning a brick. It have the poop chicken poop for have bacon Gouda, cheese, each other, and then go into the outline and talk with. Over easy eggs. That’s what all the meat smoke meat you will be enjoying in that sandwich. and even the welder, a cold-weather don’t forget, tries to the Vietnamese soup, eat the best that I learned how to cook that when I’m only eight years old.
That’s suit. it called Vietnamese Nepal, the, the most, ready, these, that every customer ready love at here.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:21:58] And I just want to state for the record that I really love FOS. So I’m definitely going to get some of that when I come to your place.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:22:05] anytime. So you will be in love with that. I promise. Yeah, I promise.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:11] But as long as you promise that’s okay. so Lynn, if, if somebody is listening to this podcast and they want to, they want to follow you online or connect with you online, or find out more information about your restaurant, what would be the best way for them to do that?
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:22:25] I am. I am on the Capitol city. A link into my, my Facebook page and my Facebook account. And, it is anyone can contact me on a paper, Capitol city BBQ pay, and it’s linking into so up, right away on the network right away. Is, I might be not respond right away because I will cook in, but I always have my staff to respond it back right away.
just go to cap tie-in and in lesson a by us, Brian.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:23:00] Nice. And for our audience, we’ll have those links in the show notes down below Lynn. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today, it’s been an absolute treat.
Linh Lee, Capital City BBQ: [00:23:09] Thank you for having me.