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Loc Truong was born in Vietnam but raised and educated in the US. He met California native Steve Gutiérrez while both were attending university in San Diego. The friends shared a passion for beer, with Truong going on to work for industry giant ABI and Gutiérrez building a career in the hospitality sector. Eight years ago Truong returned to Vietnam and, ever the entrepreneur, identified a market opportunity for yogurt. He contacted Gutiérrez, who had experience running something similar as a senior in college, but nothing really came of it. However, the two did keep in touch.
Eventually by 2014 Truong explained, “I had a plan, it was just about getting the parts together. Since then, it’s been two and a half years in the making”. Looking back Gutiérrez is thankful “it’s so much better to launch a brewery together than a yogurt shop”. I wholeheartedly agree! But Truong, with an MBA courtesy of the elite China European International Business School, and Gutiérrez as Sales lead are only two of the four founding partners. Shawn Scott leads Operations with ten years of culinary and management experience in his native Canada and across Vietnam. Last but certainly not least, head brewer Sean Thommen brings over a decade of professional brewing experience from Portland Oregon – perhaps one of the most well established craft beer communities in the world.
In addition to the four partners, the recipe for a successful restaurant and brewery would not be complete without the talents of a head chef and passion of a local brewer. Enter Cyndi Tran, Executive Chef of East West Brewing Co, with over a decade of experience at some of the world’s premier hotel names such as Four Seasons and Loews Hotels. Hailing from LA, Cyndi’s family has both Vietnamese and Salvadoran roots, meaning her cooking pallet is wide and talent is fierce. Getting the chance to taste a bite of her spent grain granola, an evolving component of what was eventually an incredible Valentine’s dessert dish, made me a fan for life.
Last but not least, Trung Dau, a Saigon local, works as a brewer under Sean Thommen. Dau is working to become the first Vietnamese Master Craft Brewer ever. Thommen describes the match between the brewers as a perfect fit, that Dau “Really wants to make a career out of it. He sees where this market is headed. Excited by the opportunity to elevate Vietnamese beer to that of revered Vietnamese food“.
East West Brewing Co. also benefits from a silent investor group. Achieving the formidable scale of operations they have – a staff of over 30, a seat dining & bar area for over 150 guests, barrel aging room, rooftop patio, and distribution at a growing number of other bar and restaurants – would be impossible without such start up funds. Though small by ‘big beer’ standards, the East West Brewing Co. operation stands out as the largest ever launch in the two year history of Saigon’s craft beer scene. Instead of a slow and steady approach, they have jumped in with both feet and are certainly making a splash.