Meet Andy Nguyen

A Be A Better Human Story

Aspiring baker, lover of the Elevated Egg Sandwich and rising leader at First Watch. Andy Nguyen brings all of these titles and more to the table as Operations Manager of his local restaurant in Novi, Michigan. This month and all year long, he’s celebrating his pride as a member of the Asian American and LGBTQ+ communities – and we couldn’t be prouder to call him a First Watcher!  

andy nguyen novi

What’s your First Watch story? When, where, and how did the journey begin?

It started in July 2020. One of my friends was working for First Watch at the time and was telling me how amazing the hours and environment were, so I was like, “that sounds like where I need to be.” I took a chance and put in an application, then, of course, COVID hit. I was given the option to work or stay home, and I took the break during the pandemic, but soon got the call from First Watch, then the interview, and then the job!

I started as a server in our Shelby Township restaurant, and in January the next year I became a Black Apron. This past July, I was offered an Operations Manager position at our Royal Oak restaurant, and I took it – since then, I’ve had the chance to help open our newest restaurant in Novi, Michigan!

What brought you into the restaurant industry?

andy nguyen team

I’ve worked in restaurants for nearly a decade, since I was 18 years old. I had just freshly graduated from high school and my parents were like, “you need your own money.” My very first job was at a restaurant, and ever since then, as much as the industry does stress me out at times, I still love it. As a server, I love connecting and meeting new people, and the best part for me is just making their day.

What’s been your favorite part of being an Operations Manager?

Honestly, my staff. They are the reason why I wake up in the morning and go to work. We still have fun at work while getting the job done. My team is receptive and feed off each other’s energy, so when I come in with a very positive energy, they’re ready to go, and honestly, it’s been amazing watching them grow.

You’re a server and manager by day, but a self-trained baker at night. Care to share more?

andy nguyen baking

I’ve always been a creative person. Back in high school, I had a teacher tell me I should pursue a career in art, but I gravitated more to baking – thanks Grandma! – so I’ve combined the two. I like to make crème brulee, even though it’s a pain to bake. In the Fall, I make a really good apple crumble coffee cake with caramelized apples topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. At First Watch, I keep up with my passion for art by doing the chalkboards at our Novi restaurant.

Have you ever thought about taking your passion for baking to the next level?

I was pursuing baking and pastry arts in college and I’d like to go back one day. Attending school gave me ideas to do my own creative free style, and experiment with recipes like Oreo truffles.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. While it just wrapped up, you shared this month has a special significance for you…

andy nguyen pride

AAPI month makes me very proud of where I came from. My grandma was an immigrant from Vietnam and came to the U.S. when she was young with six kids. In Detroit, we didn’t grow up with a lot of money. To see how we’ve grown up and flourished, out here being able to buy things and support ourselves, means a great deal.

This Pride month and all year long, what does being a part of the LGBTQ+ community mean to you?

In Michigan, the Asian community and the LGBTQ+ community are pretty small, and everyone knows each other. I found one of my closest friends through both communities and she makes me want to work harder to be a better version of myself. My friends have made me very comfortable to be who I am, and I can lean on them for support since many of us share the same struggles when it comes to family and identity.

I really hope others learn to love themselves and enjoy being who they truly are – because I know once I came out, I was truly happy with life. It’s amazing to have such huge support from the people who are the closest to me (huge part!). I love that we have a whole month dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community because it’s one month that we get to celebrate our true selves!

I hear you’re a Rising 20* mentee. Can you share what that experience has been like?

andy nguyen fw

I was still a Black Apron when the Rising 20 program was happening. My manager was persistent that I apply. Four of us at my restaurant submitted and I was selected. The experience was amazing and couldn’t have come at a better time as I was transitioning roles in the restaurant. I had David Gaines – the VP of Operations in our region – as my mentor and, as we got to know each other, it turned out we have the same personality style. He taught me how to become a better leader and I’d like to share one the quotes he shared that still hits home for me: “In any situation, you don’t ever play victim. Because when you play victim, you lose.” Life becomes a lot easier when you take a breather and recognize that two wrongs don’t make a right.

* In the R.I.S.E. Mentorship Program, First Watch leaders partner with employees from different cultural backgrounds to create powerful bonds while enhancing learning and development, paving the way for the advancement of employees within underrepresented communities.

How have you grown since joining First Watch?

When I first started at First Watch, I was struggling financially. I had recently lost my car and a place to stay, and at one point I was jumping from couch to couch. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. After working hard at the restaurant, I eventually was able to save enough to buy a car and, when I was comfortable enough, I took a chance and devoted my full-time work to First Watch and haven’t looked back. I’m truly grateful for First Watch and what they have done for me to get me to this point.

Want to join Andy in making days brighter at First Watch?