Immigrant family spreads joy through food in Penticton at JJ Joy Asian restaurant

New Canadians spread 'Joy'

“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP) and supported by Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contributions that immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.

The family behind JJ Joy in Penticton are happy to call Canada home and share the food of their Asian heritage.

Jung Shil (Sylvia) Hwang and her family moved to Canada from South Korea about eight years ago. First, her husband, Sang Deok (Tony) Park, got a job in Alberta and moved there on his own. Sylvia and their son, Jun, joined him in a few months.

“My life was very different before we came to Canada. I was a ballerina and taught children at a dance academy. My husband was a chef at Tony Roma’s, a chain restaurant specializing in ribs, and he wanted to immigrate to Canada because in my country people retire early and he did not want to retire”, shares Sylvia.

“Our plan was for my husband to move to Canada and for my son and me to stay in Korea but family together is better, so we just followed him here.”

When Sylvia moved to Alberta she spent a lot of time with their son. “In Korea, I was very busy and our son was in a daycare and he was just always waiting for me. So, in Alberta I spent all my time with our son and was so happy.”

After a year and a half, they moved to Penticton. “My daughter, Hannah, was born at the Penticton Hospital, so Penticton is her home town," adds Sylvia with a big smile.

It took the family over four years to finally get their immigration documents. For Sylvia, the most challenging thing was to learn the language.

She took the free English language classes at the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS). She also found it hard to navigate the Canadian education system as it is very different from the one in Korea.

“But wherever we go, people are very helpful," she said.

In 2018 they opened Joy Buffet at the Cannery in Penticton. It was a buffet-style restaurant serving signature ribs and a number of Asian dishes.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the family had to change the setting and get rid of the buffet. They changed the name to “JJ Joy” not to confuse customers about the buffet availability, and switched to a la carte.

“Our specialty is ribs – they are very soft and melt in your mouth," chuckles Sylvia. “Our customers also like our other dishes, such Chow Mein and Pad Thai. We have Korean dishes as well, such as Bulgogi and sweet and spicy BBQ chicken.”

“My advice to other immigrants coming to Canada is to try and learn some English before you come. Also, you need a positive mind. It is very helpful in settlement. Now that we are settled a little bit I feel very grateful," concludes Sylvia.

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