Mike Lin grew up on Long Island, going to school and working part time in his family's Thai restaurant. The family hired a chef from Thailand, who taught Lin everything he knew about Thai cooking.
"Mike really enjoyed it," said Patti Sloan, manager of Green Leaf Asian Restaurant in Lakehurst. "When the chef retired, Mike went on his own, and that's when he opened Green Leaf."
Green Leaf, located in downtown Lakehurst, opened in late August and has gotten a great response from the surrounding community, Sloan said.
"They wanted to bring something different here," she said. "Some people know the food, some people try it, like it and because it's good they tell their friends and come back."
Sloan said Lin, along with two helpers in the kitchen, cooks all the dishes, which are freshly prepared, one dish at a time. There are a wide variety of choices, from chicken, beef, pork and duck, to seafood and vegetables.
"It's fairly authentic, only a little sweeter and not as spicy as it would be in Thailand," she said. "The kitchen is immaculate, everything's right off the grill."
Among their specialties are Thai iced tea and coffee, drunken noodles, which is stir-fried rice board noodles with basil, onions and bell peppers, General Tso's chicken, spicy basil chicken and mango duck. All their dishes can be cooked to the level of spiciness a patron desires.
Prior to opening, Sloan said she mailed out a flier with the restaurant's menu to homes in Lakehurst, Manchester and Toms River. They already have had repeat customers.
"One couple has been there six times since we opened," she said. "They love coming here. They're telling all their friends."
Sloan is currently working with a teacher at Manchester Township High School who wants to bring a group to the restaurant to learn more about Thai cuisine.
"We want to become involved in things like that," Sloan said. "We're part of the community and want to support the community."
Sloan, Lin, and many of the workers who are mostly family members, live in Lakehurst.
"We're in a perfect block because we have a variety of things nearby," Sloan said. "You can have dinner here and then walk down the block to get ice cream for dessert."
The restaurant seats 50 people, they do a brisk takeout business and they deliver to most anywhere in Lakehurst, Manchester, Toms River and Jackson.
Green Leaf has lunch specials Monday through Saturday. The restaurant is BYOB.
"We're hoping we succeed as well as we have been and are here for awhile," said Sloan. "No matter what, people are here enjoying the food."
Green Leaf Asian Restaurant, 26 Union Avenue, is open 7 days: Monday - Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.