For Im “Mike” Chenda, 50, the road from Cambodia to the United States and back was bumpy, but worth it – as evidenced by the pride he takes in the fresh ingredients of every “Mike’s Burger” located at the Sokimex petrol station at the corner of Russian and Mao Zedong boulevards.
The story begins in Battambang, when Mike, the youngest of eight children in the family suffered the terrible struggles, at around the age of 15, of the Pol Pot regime.
“I almost died, but my dad got some medicine and saved me,” he said. That was in 1977.
In 1980, he ended up back in a Thai refugee camp and through a relative got sponsored to the USA and arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on September 4, 1980.
Living in Long Beach with two of sisters and his father, he studied English, worked as a typewriter repairman, electronics technician before finally taking a job for the United States Postal Service where he served as a mailman for 22 years in La Habra, California.
His son Jeffrey, 23, works in quality control for the Monster energy drink company and his daughter, Melany, 22, works as a pastry chef in Pasadena.
In 1993, Mike first re-visited Cambodia to take a look. Mike quit the US Postal Service in 2004. In 2007, he returned to live.
He started Mike’s Burger in 2009 and only six weeks ago moved to the Sokimex location on Russian Boulevard near the Mao Zedong intersection.
By word of mouth, customers are on the increase, Americans and Cambodians, all kinds of other nationalities, arriving to taste Mike’s burgers.
“We have good beef, fresh vegetables, fresh burger buns and good sauce,” Mike said.