Trong Nguyen '72 (Biological Sciences)

Experiments pay off for Nguyen

Trong Nguyen

Training as a geneticist doesn’t teach you how to whip up a cappuccino or bake a croissant. So when Trong Nguyen decided to open his first La Bou café 25 years ago, he bought himself an espresso machine and spent his evenings practicing. Then he took a weekend job at a French bakery to pick up the boulanger’s art.

“I didn’t go to school to learn how to run a restaurant,” Nguyen says. “But we wanted to create something—to bring people good coffee, good pastry. The public responded to that.”

La Bou now has 26 locations throughout the Sacramento Region, offering salads, soups, sandwiches, pastries, and of course, a mean croissant-cappuccino duo.

Nguyen’s tendency toward the self-taught is evident throughout his umbrella company, World of Good Tastes. Though La Bou was a success, Nguyen had no experience running a “white-tablecloth” restaurant. Nonetheless, he and chef Mai Pham opened Sacramento’s venerable Lemon Grass restaurant in 1988.

But Nguyen didn’t stop there. When he noticed he regularly needed to go to a metal fabricating shop to get custom-designed parts for his restaurants, he bought it. His current venture, which he runs with his wife, two-time Sac State grad Annie Ngo ‘83 (Sociology) MS ’86 (Counseling), is a furniture design and manufacturing company that targets both the restaurant- and home-owner.

“Being a former scientist, I always want to improve things, to make things better. I’m one of those guys that if you show me something, I always try to improve it,” Nguyen says.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2007 edition of Sac State Magazine.