2019 Great Immigrants Recipient

Andrew Cherng
Cofounder, Cochair, and Co-CEO, Panda Restaurant Group, Inc.
Born in:

Born in Yangzhou, China, and raised in Taiwan and Japan, Andrew Cherng came to the United States in 1966 to study mathematics at Baker University in Kansas. There, he met his future wife, Peggy, also an international student. The son of a chef, Andrew Cherng worked as a waiter during summers throughout his undergraduate studies and while pursuing a master’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Missouri. In 1983 Andrew Cherng and his father opened the Panda Inn, a sit-down Chinese restaurant in Pasadena, California. When one of his customers, a developer of the Glendale Galleria mall in Los Angeles County, suggested opening a fast-casual restaurant, the son quickly seized the opportunity, and that same year, Andrew and Peggy Cherng opened their first Panda Express. Popularizing Chinese-American culinary classics like orange chicken and honey walnut shrimp, Panda Express restaurants spread throughout malls, stadiums, theme parks, and as stand-alone street stores. Today, Panda Express has more than 2,200 locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and other countries, employing nearly 40,000 people while remaining family-owned and operated. In addition to Panda Express, the Panda Restaurant Group is responsible for the Panda Inn restaurants and the Hibachi-San chain of Japanese restaurants, and the group’s investments include food ventures such as Just Salad, Pieology, Uncle Tetsu, and Ippudo. As cochair and co-CEO of the Panda Restaurant Group, Cherng has amassed a net worth valued at $3.5 billion by Forbes. Since 1999, Panda Cares, the restaurant group’s philanthropic arm, has donated more than $140 million to provide health services to uninsured children, improve college readiness in schools, deliver immediate relief to victims of the California wildfires, and more. As Cherng told the New York Times, “Life is more than just for yourself. You want to do well for family, to take care of other people, other causes — that is where happinesses are.”