Daniel Nguyen is a restaurant owner and served as a councilor for the City of Lake Oswego from 2018 to 2021. He is now an Oregon State Representative for House District 38. Raised in Camas, Washington, Nguyen lived with his four siblings and his parents, who owned and operated a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Camas. Realizing that he had a knack for business while helping out with the family restaurant, Nguyen attended the University of Puget Sound and majored in International Business, where he had the opportunity to study abroad in Asia. He found his way back to the restaurant industry after graduation and helped his parents open a new Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle, Washington. Nguyen and his family relocated to Portland after his first daughter was born and opened up Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, eventually including locations in the Portland International Airport and in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Influenced by his involvement with the Port of Portland community, Nguyen became interested in politics and ran for the office of councilor in the City of Lake Oswego in 2018. He started his term in 2019, the first person of color to ever be elected to Lake Oswego’s City Council, as well as the first Vietnamese American to ever be elected to any office in Oregon state history.
In this interview, Nguyen begins by talking about his family’s history and how they came to the United States as refugees in 1975. He then talks about his childhood growing up in Camas as well as his family’s involvement in the restaurant business. Nguyen also shares how he felt connected to the Vietnamese community through the church where his uncle was a pastor and how he learned Vietnamese language and culture from his parents. Nguyen goes on to describe his time attending the University of Puget Sound as a business major and his study abroad program in Asia, where he researched development policy in Thailand and Vietnam. He then talks about his experience after graduation, pivoting from his dream consulting job back to the restaurant business, moving back to Portland with his family, and opening up more restaurants. Nguyen explains how working with the Port of Portland inspired him to go into politics and share his perspective as a small business owner. He also discusses the campaign process and the issues he ran on. At the end of the interview, Nguyen discusses the experiences and challenges he faced as a business owner and council member during the COVID-19 pandemic.