Meet the man behind Orlando's popular 'DOMU Dynasty': Sean 'Sonny' Nguyen

As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, a Central Florida restaurant owner is being celebrated for his significant impact on Orlando’s food scene. 

Sean "Sonny" Nguyen, a prominent figure in the culinary world, shared his journey from humble beginnings to culinary stardom.

Nguyen's passion for food was ignited at a young age and deeply rooted in his upbringing. Born to Vietnamese parents who escaped the turmoil of war, Nguyen's family eventually settled in Winter Haven, Florida. 

"Unlike other kids, I was always drawn to food," Nguyen recalled.

Nguyen's father, who initially worked in the citrus industry, transitioned to the restaurant business, instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in his son. At just five years old, Nguyen and his father drafted his first business plan, envisioning "Sean's Famous Noodles." 

Nguyen fondly remembered, "I was sitting in bed with my mom, and my dad was across from us, helping me spell things out."

Sean "Sonny" Nguyen

This childhood dream evolved into DOMU, a cornerstone of Nguyen’s restaurant dynasty. His establishment gained prominence for its noodle dishes and chicken specialties. In 2022 and 2023, DOMU was awarded the coveted Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand, recognizing its high-quality food at reasonable prices.

Achieving this recognition was no easy feat. 

"Everyone initially tried to steer me away from it," Nguyen said. 

However, the restaurant's growing acclaim, including a visit from TV host Andrew Zimmern, changed perceptions. 

"It really hit them when Andrew Zimmern did an episode here, and I invited my whole family," Nguyen shared.

Nguyen's success continued with opening six more restaurants, including Tori Tori, a cocktail bar, and Edo Boy, a standing sushi bar. Both were also recognized with Michelin Guide recommendations.

"I'm super proud of it," Nguyen said. "It's something I don't take for granted."

Reflecting on his journey, Nguyen expressed pride in his identity as an Asian American and credited the city of Orlando for embracing Asian businesses. 

"The city has really embraced us," Nguyen said. "Nobody knew what DOMU was or who I am, but they gave me an opportunity to showcase my work."

Nguyen’s story is a testament to perseverance and the power of community support in the culinary world.