by Diana Serbe
"For three years I called him 'Master,'" says Dawn Savanh. Dawn is open and welcoming, natural when talking with people, but she watches for a reaction to her statement with an impish gleam in her eye.
It was an appropriate title to use for Leu, she explains, for he was a 4th Degree Black Belt 'Master' of Tae Kwon Do and Dawn was his student. After three years of study, however, he asked her to go to dinner. Dawn knew him to be a good person, "but I asked him what his name was. I told him that I would not call him master on the other side of that door." In that moment, a partnership was born, though neither knew it at the time.Leu is a Texan of Thai descent. He had taught Tae Kwan Do for about 15 years, and had kept cooking on the side as a pastime and a passion. Dawn, originally from New York, had worked in the hotel industry, and noticed that Leu had a God-given talent, that he thought about food all the time, that he never used cookbooks, didn't write down recipes. With these observations tumbling in her mind, she encouraged him to pursue his passion. Leu decided to fulfill his soul's desire and dedicate himself to learning the skills he needed. To arrive at his goal, he worked without salary in five-star restaurants, honing his skill, bringing the grace and discipline of Tae Kwan Do into the kitchen with him. It was inevitable that they fuse their talents and open a restaurant, one that understood fusion in all its aspects. August E's was born. It was also inevitable that as their success built, they would think of adding new horizons to the restaurant. Dawn had lived in Tokyo for three years and was craving sushi. What's the owner of a restaurant to do? Why, find the way to get the freshest fish and hire a sushi chef, of course. There was nothing like sushi in Fredericksburg, so they put sushi on the menu for one night only, but rapidly found that they were turning people away. They added a second night, but limited themselves to two nights only because they were guaranteed the fish would be fresh. "If it's not fresh, I don't buy it," says Dawn.
Leu is a shy man who is happiest in the kitchen. When urged by Dawn to join us for a moment, we see his shyness. But then he asks if we've had the fine Texas wine on the menu, and begins to talk about the food he is preparing. Then the twinkle in his eye shows that he loves to experiment. He is indeed a natural.