Inspire – Women of Dartmouth Stories

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From Hospitality to Empowerment

A Journey of Self-Discovery Through Cuisine and Culture by Becky Lin ’06

I went to Dartmouth with the dream of becoming a doctor. In retrospect, it wasn’t my dream. It was my way of making my parents proud. No surprise there. I lived up to the stereotype of an immigrant kid, trying to move up the social and financial ladder by being a doctor, lawyer or other similarly prestigious career field. There’s nothing wrong with it but I realized in my senior year that my brain wasn’t built that way. I have always been drawn to creative fields, like design and cooking, and I’d find my mind wandering and daydreaming whenever I tried to study for the MCAT. So when my mom approached me to open their third restaurant on Long Island, I agreed to graduate early and return to the family business.

After the business took off, I moved to pursue my own dreams in NYC. I was very keen on opening a restaurant of my own because I had been working at my family restaurant since I was 13 and I love the art of cooking. However, opening a restaurant in one of the most competitive cities in the world requires more than just passion and experience. I needed more, like a great concept and better management skills.

Two years after moving to the city, I accidentally entered the education field when the children’s language school where I worked as a marketing intern needed a Mandarin teacher. It was a niche market with great potential and fit me well. I was proud of my native language and culture, and enjoyed working with kids – they know how to bring out the kid that lives inside all of us. After a year of teaching, I decided to open a language enrichment school with the help of my parents. The program was successful and I ran it for almost 9 years until the pandemic hit and forced us to close.

During the two years I stayed home, I was a housewife, raising my two young children and making meals for the family every day. It was also during this time that I reconnected with my original dream of being a restaurant owner. I never forgot about it. In fact, I was constantly testing recipes on my family and friends. It was just never the right time because I was too comfortable with what I had. I didn’t want to make changes. This time, I felt ready to finally pull the trigger. I have a loving and supportive husband and two beautiful daughters. I had more experience as a business owner. The stars were aligning for this next phase of my life.

After a few months of searching, we found the perfect location in the West Village to open our first dumpling and noodle restaurant. I came up with the name Lin and Daughters pretty quickly. My parents have three daughters and I have two daughters. To digress, my two younger sisters were given up for adoption because my parents were desperate for a son and the one child policy was in the way. Where they lived, it was a requirement to bear a son to continue the family line. Growing up, I was treated as the inferior gender not only by my mom, but also by most adults around me. My paternal grandma would constantly shame my mom for having 3 girls. By the time she had a son, the feud between them had gotten too deep to repair. After my dad left for the USA, the feud got worse and I, as the only daughter, became the scapegoat for my mom’s anger towards my grandma.

The gender inequality and my own personal experience destroyed my confidence. I became a people pleaser and would do almost anything to prove to my parents, especially my mom, that I was worthy. For example, I worked 7 days a week at the restaurant for five years until I had to leave for college.

This people pleasing tendency was a valuable skill in the hospitality industry. I’m always ready to serve and do my best to make customers happy. However, that doesn’t work as well when you’re the chef and owner. I was taken advantage of many times by the employees. One of them blatantly hit on me, asking me very insensitive questions, and getting into my personal space. Unlike the education business, the restaurant industry has a very diverse mix of personalities, many of which didn’t bond well with mine. I found that people are more complicated in this industry. I guess I am as well. My hardships turned me into an empath who showed too much patience at times. Also, being a woman in the industry is generally harder. It’s still very much a male-dominated industry. That said, I have managed to build a great team after many trials and errors. I didn’t have to change myself in the process but I did have to change who I choose to surround myself with.

Going back to the name of my restaurant, I wanted to name it after my daughters who are too young to understand all of this. Hopefully they never have to understand it, but either way, it’s my way of showing them their importance. I raised them to never feel less than anyone else. No one is better than them and they’re not better than anyone else. There was time at the beginning of the business where I didn’t see them for days. While I felt guilty, I never regretted my decision to make the necessary sacrifices to turn my lifelong dream into reality. There was no better way to teach my girls how to follow their passion than leading by example. I just turned 40 and I spent most of those years feeling like an imposter, masquerading as a confident business woman, when in actuality, I felt rejected and unlovable inside. It was only recently that I had the courage to love myself and be who I am. I would hate for my daughters to live in the shadow of their own selves. After having my spirit obscured by what I thought the world demanded of me, my wish for my daughters is that they find the courage to follow their inner light with kindness, positivity, and passion.

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