Globetrotting restaurateur and gastronomy expert, the Paradise Group has finally found the right man to run its food and beverage business in the country.
“Being at Ngon Villa or at one of Home Restaurants is not just about the food, the drinks, or the presentation. It’s about the dining experience!"
This is how he usually introduces Paradise Group’s restaurants to people who ask him about Home and Ngon Villa.
Charming and charismatic, the young 30-something gentleman is the newly appointed General Manager for the restaurant business of Paradise Group, which consists of two brands, Ngon Villa and Home Restaurants. Articulate and humorous as he can be when it comes to work and business, he can be the wisest person you’ll ever talk to despite his young age.
Considering his jam-packed schedules and meetings, we were lucky enough to book him for at least an hour to dig deeper and find out where this genius got his drive, his passion, and experiences, and how he ended up becoming Paradise Group’s best investment yet. Our editorial team rushed to Home Hanoi and did a quick interview of the man behind Ngon Villa and Home’s recent successes, gastronomy expert Dang Hoang Minh.
Tell us your story. What are your family background and your journey to adulthood?
Well, I’m the eldest in the family and have a younger sister. Both of my parents are in their 50s now and are living in Ho Chi Minh City. My sister and my father are very much alike as they’re both in the architecture industry. I guess it runs in the family.
As for my own family, I’m married to a wonderful woman, whom I actually met in Halong Bay when I worked as Cruise Manager for Heritage Line. She used to work for Paradise as well. Got two kids now, one eighteen-month-old baby girl and one five-year-old boy. Both are wonderful and innocent still. But I miss them a lot since I’m far away from them. I try to visit them in Ho Chi Minh at least once or twice a month or whenever I get a chance to take an off from work.
My adulthood, on the other hand, was not as exciting as I expected it to be. Shortly after high school, I decided to live independently from my parents and moved to France for further studies, where I took a business management degree at the university of Perpignan. At that same time, I worked multiple jobs so I could earn extra money on the side.
It was a very tough time indeed. But from working part-time while studying, I had the opportunity to work in the food & beverage industry, from fast-food chains to cafés to Michelin restaurants, where I learned most of my knowledge in the gastronomy field. And I’m grateful for these jobs that were given to me while living there.
The Turning Point
It was the night before New Year’s Eve when I had a moment of realization that made me change the course of my career development and life choices. That moment when I was washing dishes for 150 or so guests at the Michelin restaurant where I was working while everybody else was celebrating with their loved ones and friends; that’s when I told myself that I had to earn myself a better position no matter what. I returned home at 02:30 am that evening, completely drained, exhausted, and empty. From then on, I started working harder and tried harder to have a better life.
What did you do after graduation? Did you move somewhere else to work and improve your skills?
In 2007, I had the option to go to the United States for a kitchen internship program at the Four Seasons based in Chicago. To be honest though, one of the main reasons why I went to Chicago was because of this girl I was chasing. Of course, it never worked out. I was young and naïve.
Within that same year though, everything happened quickly. The winter got into my system and made me depressed for some reason. I was in a very reputable company with a very good position but it didn’t feel right. I completely felt the opposite of that. And that’s when I thought of moving back to Asia for further studies.
So where did you go after and what did you study?
That following year probably was the best year of my life as a young professional. Singapore was a totally new environment for me. Nonetheless, it was still as competitive as the US and France, but on a different scale. I was studying F&B Operations and ranked 3rd in my class. Amazing how I transformed from being a mediocre worker to a top performer. I would have never expected it to happen.
Now, this is where the real story began. One year and a half was my timeline in Singapore. From there, I decided to go home to Vietnam to find love, like what other people do.
For sure it was a total culture shock for me having been working abroad for so many years. I worked for several restaurants in Saigon thereafter. One day, I got sick of it and went on a two-week road trip to the north of Vietnam where I ended up in Halong Bay and started working for a Heritage Line as a cruise manager. And at last, after years of searching for meaning and purpose, I have finally met my wife here. We got married, had kids, and moved back to Ho Chi Minh all within the span of 3 years.
In the end of 2013, I was offered the biggest job I’ve had so far, managed the group of restaurants at JW Marriott, including both the French Grill and the JW Café. And just to brag, of course, I was able to serve the most influential leader of the century, previous US President Barack Obama. From the pre-opening until just recently before I left, the team that I was with at that place pushed me to my best potential and achieved so accomplishments and awards that anyone could just dream of.
The Transition to Paradise
So over the years, Mr. Cao Son, our then COO for Paradise Group, has been trying his best to persuade me to join the Paradise family. And finally, as we all know, I joined the group just recently as General Manager for all the restaurant business. What’s most endearing was the fact that joined the company purely because of Mr. Son’s drive and vision. He’s the kind of person you gravitate to within seconds of meeting him. And he’s probably the reason why most of the people in the management team are here and why Paradise is so successful. He basically built an empire of his own, which is very impressive and inspiring.
How would you describe Mr. Son?
Genius. Great. Elegant. Vision driven.
What about you? What’re your dreams? Any plans for the future?
In the near future, I dream of having my own restaurant in a small town (either in Hoi An or Da Lat or maybe somewhere else). Vietnam is in a fast transition and I want to take advantage of it. I envision a bistro concept and casual type of place where I could offer guests with refined cuisine, upscale services, and a warm ambience; also a place of great food, beverages, and music.