ORLANDO, Florida. – Sean “Sonny” Nguyen spent much of his childhood in his family’s restaurants.
“I was brought to the restaurant with my parents, just because they had to keep watching me,” he said. “So I was always in the back room. My aunts and uncles also owned restaurants, mostly Chinese buffets, and there was always a back room where all the kids and cousins hung out.
Nguyen – who owns Domu, as well as several other restaurants – said he had always loved cooking, but his parents actively discouraged him from working in restaurants.
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“Honestly, they hated it,” he said. “They were saying, ‘You have to be a doctor, you have to be a pharmacist, you have to be a lawyer, you have to have a high salary. I understood where they came from. My parents came in the 70s, on a boat, by chance and floated to the Philippines and were rescued and brought to America. So they were during this time of war. The Communists took over (Vietnam). It was really hard for them and so I think they just wanted a better life and I understand that part.
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Nguyen worked for the Bento Group from 2007 to 2016 when he first opened Domu in Orlando’s East End Market.
“I was opening the restaurants for (Bento) all over the state and so I understood the project management side, the construction side, the food costs and all that – managing the business side as well. So it’s very important, not only to know how to cook, but also to know how to run a business,” he said.
Nguyen describes Domu as a “neighborhood ramen shop”.
“You’re going to walk in and you’re going to hear hip-hop music. It’s not traditional,” he said.
He added that Domu has set himself many rules, such as no reservations and no takeout.
It’s because we want to be able to run the room, but we’re looking at this with the goal of being able to take care of the customers and not overwhelm us and to make sure the team can keep up with it,” a- he declared.
Domu has proven himself. The restaurant has expanded to three locations and was recently recognized by Michelin with a Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes high quality cuisine at reasonable prices.
Beyond Domu’s success, Nguyen has also opened two new concepts in Orlando’s Mills 50 neighborhood – Tori Tori, a cocktail bar serving Japanese-style snacks, and Edoboy, a stand-up sushi bar.
In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Nguyen talks about balancing multiple restaurants with his family life. He also shares what it was like to keep his businesses alive during the pandemic and what it was like to be recognized by Michelin.
Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out his children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”
Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find the new episodes on apple podcast, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
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