At ezCater, we’re inspired by chefs and restaurant operators who take their passion for food and catering and turn it into a career. As a partner who helps them build their catering business, we’re proud to share their stories with you.
Meet Ky Nguyen, the son of Vietnamese immigrants, who quit his stable job in hedge funds for a complete unknown: starting his restaurant SA PA. “It just didn’t make any sense to them because they’re immigrants and they just want their children to have security,” Ky Nguyen says. “And I went the opposite direction. I went into a very insecure, dark place where no one knows if the restaurant is going to work.” This is the story of Ky Nguyen showcasing his Vietnamese roots through food.
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Ky Nguyen: I mean, to be honest, my parents, when I told them that I was going to leave my hedge fund job to start a restaurant, I mean, they had no idea why. It just didn’t make any sense to them because they’re immigrants and they just want their children to have security. And I went the opposite direction. I went into a very insecure, dark place where no one knows if the restaurant is going to work. I just feel, like, if I didn’t do it now, I would have regretted it my whole life. SA PA is a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant that I started with my chef Dana Love. It’s really a blend of Vietnamese flavors with European technique. So, I kind of grew up eating both cuisines and being exposed to both cultures. SA PA is kind of a combination of those experiences. So, when we started, we would do, like, 50 people for lunch. And I was, like, ecstatic. Now, six years later, we do, like, 250 people. With catering that’s where the scale is.
You can drop off a hundred-person order rather than feeding a hundred people one at a time. For someone who’s worked 9 to 5, that lunch hour is important. You know? You don’t want to waste it. You want to have a good, good meal. And for an hour they look forward to just escaping work and eating good food with friends.
Having those roots in Vietnam and seeing those pictures inspires me to showcase Vietnamese culture in my own way.
Being an entrepreneur, starting it from scratch, having the ideas in your head, bringing it out into the world is tremendously difficult but also very rewarding. Just, um, kind of organized chaos until 1:30.
The lunch rush is over. And it’s like, all right, let’s start prepping for the next day.
Take a peek at the modern Vietnamese menu that Ky Nguyen caters every day at SA PA.