Shairose Shamji-Karmali has known the highs and lows of life.
In her previous life as a corporate trainer - based in Toronto, but posted to Bangalore, India - she was climbing the corporate ladder.
But her marriage was falling apart and she came to the West Coast to start a new life.
She met Karim Karmali, and the two fell in love, living in a small 400-square-foot basement suite so they could save money.
Shairose also started frequenting a local eatery, the Safari Snack House at 5121 Canada Way, and she liked the food and atmosphere so much that she asked the owners if she could work there.
For the next 18 months, Shairose - she insists on everybody going by their first name - learned from the owner, Parviz, and the chef, Nicki. Shairose liked it so much that earlier this year, when Parviz wanted to retire, she bought the place and has been running it successfully ever since.
"We just added the grill, and that means we can serve even more dishes," said a bubbly Shairose. "We've been pretty busy."
So busy in fact that when a recent emergency call came in, Shairose and her staff were able to mobilize very quickly.
"A couple of Saturdays ago, a caterer wrote down the wrong date for a wedding, and I got a call asking if we could do 200 kababs, 200 samosas and 200 main courses for a wedding that day," said Shairose. "I told them we could get the appies going in 45 minutes, and we could do the mains after that and we had it all done just in time."
That's the type of service you get at the Safari Snack House and Grill - which I was tipped off to by fellow reporter Jennifer Moreau, a lunch regular.
On a beautiful spring day, I sat down with Shairose, originally from Uganda, and Karim, originally from Tanzania, and watched them serve a steady stream of satisfied customers. Karim is so supportive of his wife that even after finishing his normal job, he's taking orders, picking up supplies and doing whatever Shairose needs him to do.
"This is like a family to me," said Shairose as she hugs Nicki. "Nicki's like my sister here. She's been here more than 14 years, and she makes some of the best food."
I couldn't argue with that when Nicki's kababs came out, with the mogo cassava fries and Ismailia Bhajia potatoes on the side.
"Our meat balls are crispy and made with a special recipe," said Shairose. "They're very dark because that's how we make them back in Africa."
The meat is crispy, with a tinge of spiciness, and they are almost perfectly round, a testament to Nicki's culinary skill.
The cassava fries were tasty, a healthy alternative to French fries, while the thinly sliced potatoes fried in chick pea batter were very flavourful.
The next dish I try is the halibut, or masala fish, which was one of the daily specials.
"It sold out by 1:30 p.m.," said Shairose. "That's why everybody's looking at it when they pass by."
The halibut was very nicely seasoned - and, yes, I had to protect my fish because a steady stream of pickup customers invariably asked Shairose if there was any more available.
"We have a lot of loyal customers, and that's been good for business," she said. "It is one of our most popular dishes, and once we're sold out for the day, we mark it off the board."
The next dish I try comes with a lot of advance praise, as Safari's take-out menu calls them "the best samosas in town."
I tried all three varieties, with my favourite, the beef being crispier and juicier than any samosa I've ever had.
"All of our samosas are made fresh each day," Shairose said, pointing to Gulshan, who sits quietly by the kitchen making the samosas for Geta to fry up.
My last dish, and quite possibly my favourite, was the assortment of meats cooked on Safari's new grill.
"We just added the grill, and it's already been very popular," said Shairose.
Safari Snack House is located at 5121 Canada Way. It's open daily (except Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Special catering orders are accepted on Tuesday though. For take-out orders or more info, call 604-515-9211.