dan dan noodles at olive and finch

The Chef Takeover Starts Now: Featuring Mary Nguyen of Olive & Finch

Follow a day-in-the-life of this chef, owner, mother, and businesswoman, founder of Cherry Creek favorite Olive & Finch.

BY Gabriela Reyes


Once a successful investment banker, chef Mary Nguyen traded her desk job for a kitchen and a project that became what is now known as the Olive & Finch Collective. With a mission to create a space to fit every need, she envisioned her first rendition of Olive & Finch as a place where diners define their experience. 

Come along and see what this chef sees each day, from feeding her kids to managing staff to launching a whole new dinner service. 

The Restaurant

Olive and Finch
Olive & Finch in Cherry Creek. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Since the original Uptown location opened in 2013, Olive & Finch has grown into a trio of three eateries. The Uptown location stays true to its roots, offering breakfast starting at 7 a.m. with pastries and savory bites. It continues the day with entrees, snacks, and beverages, up until closing at 5 p.m. 

Four years later, Nguyen opened the Cherry Creek location of Olive & Finch. This eatery stands out from its sister spot with an inviting patio and now, the much-anticipated return of dinner service. Over all, Nguyen said her goal with the restaurants has always been to offer affordable, healthy food in an environment tailored to the customer. That means high tops here, to-go options there, a booth, a bar, and good vibes all around. 

“Nothing on our menu is more than $20 in a great casual environment,” said Nguyen. “Whether you opt for quick service or full service, we provide the guest the freedom to dictate and define what that experience is.”

The collective also runs Little Finch, which took over a former Starbucks in 2023. Located in  downtown Denver, it brings a welcoming café with indoor and outdoor seating to the area, as well as convenient to-go options. Prior to that, the chef dabbled in takeout-focused foods with Finch On the Fly. She opened the wholesale business In 2018 to provide wholesale salads, sandwiches, juices, and more to local hospitals, high-end grocery stores, convenience stores, and Denver International Airport.

For the takeover, Nguyen highlights her Cherry Creek spot. A large, welcoming place with plenty of seating and the feeling you’re in a different restaurant depending on where you land. There’s a sunny front room by the counter that gives off coffee shop vibes. A center space with communal seating, and a more intimate side room. Check out the vast patio too, it’s perfect for porch pounding at happy hour, complete with $5 choose-your-own-adventure well cocktails. 

The Chef

Mary Nguyen, owner of Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington
Mary Nguyen, owner of Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Nguyen was born into a working-class family where her Vietnamese mother taught her the family’s generational pho recipe. Though the love of good food never left her, nor that recipe, Nguyen initially pursued a career in finance. The path followed that of her brothers, and she enjoyed a successful tenure as an investment banker.

However, her love for hospitality and desire to cook and entertain remained a constant in her life. According to Nguyen, her household, which includes 9-year-old twin girls, is known for, “Rocking parties we throw in our backyard,” she said. It’s that same vibrant energy she brings to all her establishments.

While the parties are personal, outside the house Nguyen is best known for her Olive & Finch restaurants, though they weren’t her first restaurant idea. Previously she owned P17, ne Parallel 17, in Uptown, and Street Kitchen Asian Bistro in the Denver Tech Center. Both places focused more on her Vietnamese heritage.

Before owning those spots, Nguyen honed her skills in other kitchens. In fact, she worked at three restaurants simultaneously, Hapa Sushi, The Beehive, and Starbucks. According to Nguyen, during her time at Hapa Sushi she was the only female executive sushi chef in America.

The Food

The Goddess salad at Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington
The Goddess salad at Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Nguyen starts each menu with a focus on local and clean ingredients. At Olive & Finch customers have a diverse array of options, from simple pastry and coffee orders to quick lunch items to full-service meals. Those with gluten-free or vegetarian diets can also find delicious, thoughtful foods on every menu.

“What I’m really proud of is this menu because it’s incredibly creative,” said the chef. “We are elevating things a lot more and at the end of the day, when you cook, you don’t cook for yourself, it’s a noble act of cooking for others.”

The overall menu has a global bent. For example, start the day with a breakfast burrito ($7), the A.M. Sammie ($13-$15), a hash ($15), or an enticing pastry from the display case, plus plenty of coffee beverages. 

With the return of dinner service Nguyen has added even more tasty items. Savor a plate of bucatini with tomato sugo, whipped ricotta, basil, and spicy breadcrumbs ($17), which made our top 10 dishes last month. Or, go in for garlic-roasted chicken ($19), a slow-roasted, bone-in half chicken with crispy sweet and red potatoes, braised cabbage, and herby sauce. 

A bright Goddess salad comes in fresh with cucumber, avocado, radish, mint, crispy capers, and a house-made green goddess dressing. Order it as a half ($9.50) or make it an entree ($15.50), with or without added protein. Don’t skip the Aleppo Flatbread ($18) either. It’s a balanced combination of tamarind-spiced beef, pickled turnips, turmeric tahini, sesame almond duqqa, parsley, mint, and tangy sumac channeling a classic Middle Eastern lahmajun.


Land and Sea Board at Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington
Land and Sea Board at Olive & Finch. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Running Olive & Finch from morning to evening involves a lot of hard work and dedication. On Thursday, June 13, get an inside look at how Nguyen and her team manage it all. Follow her on our Instagram page to see a day-in-the-life of this super mom, chef, and entrepreneur as she oversees her businesses. During the day, Nguyen will take us behind the scenes of her life and kitchen. Expect a peek at breakfast with the kids, getting ready for dinner service, and more. 

Additionally, she will be giving away a $100 gift card, allowing one lucky follower to experience the new dinner menu at the Cherry Creek location. Follow along on Instagram, tag your friends, and enter online for a chance to win.

Visit Olive & Finch Cherry Creek 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. 3390 E. 1st Ave., Denver, oliveandfinch.com

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Gabriela Reyes

Gaby has been part of the Denver/Boulder food scene since 2015 when she moved to Colorado. While gradually losing her ability to eat due to six years of misdiagnosed food allergies, she became fascinated with the culinary scene. Gaby, aka The Restaurant Encyclopedia, has been DiningOut’s restaurant coordinator for food festivals since 2017 and joined the editorial team in 2022.