Quan Nguyen

Jo McGarry photo

President and Operating Partner
Papa John’s Hawaii

Where were you born and raised? Born in Vietnam and raised in Texas – my family relocated to Texas when Saigon fell. I was 3 years old and my brother was 3 months old. My mom brought us on one of the last planes out of Saigon.

So did you grow up eating American food or Vietnamese food? (Laughs) We never got to eat American food. My mom cooked Vietnamese food – which was great – but we were always asking if we could go to our friends’ house for dinner! Every Saturday we got to go to McDonald’s as a treat.

What is it about the food and restaurant industry that appeals to you? I’ve always been drawn to the industry. The interaction with the people is something I enjoy – and I truly love to see people enjoy eating.

What sets your business apart in Hawaii? I think we really care about the smallest details, and people notice that. We try to bring the Southern hospitality that I grew up with in Texas to each of our restaurants and always anticipate what customers want. I think people appreciate that, even in the smallest of ways, you can still take service to another higher level.

Where do you like to eat out? My favorite restaurant is Jimbo’s. We love their handmade fresh udon.

Do your girls eat pizza often? My wife likes to have Pizza Friday, where we order Papa John’s just to ease us into the weekend. Personally, after a week of working, I don’t like Pizza Fridays too much (laughs).

You cook some of the best bacon I have ever tasted. How did that start? Thank you! I wanted to create something for the annual Pigskin Pigout, and pork was an obvious choice. I’ve tweaked the bacon recipe and it seems to work. It’s salt-cured, thick-sliced with real maple syrup. People love it. I’d really like to take it to market one day.

If only there was enough for a pizza topping. An island pork pizza sounds like a huge seller. Well, we do have a barbecued chicken pizza with bacon that’s pretty popular (laughs).

What’s always in your fridge? Right now about 30 pounds of smoked bacon and all kinds of fruits and veggies.

Who’s been an influence on your life thus far? My parents – just growing up around their work ethic really helped me to be the person I am. And Frank Carney, the founder of Pizza Hut. He was a huge influence. To be able to spend time and work with him was invaluable to me.

What’s your favorite pizza? Hawaiian with jalapenos – sweet and spicy. It reminds me of Vietnamese food.