The Donut King

If you have ever driven around LA, you can’t help but notice countless multi-named donut stores. Watch the documentary The Donut King on Hulu or PBS if you are curious about how they came to be. There is always a sad, dark side like all great American stories, but this is mainly about an incredible man.

After our disastrous hand in the Cambodian civil war, President Ford insisted on letting 130,000 Cambodians seek asylum in the US. In the end, almost 160,000 Cambodians found homes in the states. They first came in through Fort Pendelton, where they were put in refugee camps until acquiring a sponsor. It is not surprising that many put their roots down in Southern California by proximity.

A church sponsored Ted Ngoy, aka Donut King. Religious organizations are known for this. Ngoy notices a donut store between taking care of the church and pumping gas to make ends meet for his family. That store is busy at all hours. He goes up to the window, orders a donut, takes a bite, and boom, he is blown away. The donut changes his life.

Fast forward, he opens a store after being trained at Winchell’s, the number one donut shop in Los Angeles. He sponsors hundreds of Cambodian families and teaches them how to run and own their donut shop. After they are trained, Ngoy purchases shops and leases them to the families to build their own donut business. It was a gift to the community. An incredible human being with a tremendous heart. He even wins the US medal of honor for living the American dream.

It is the classic story of hard-working immigrants coming to the US, raising the next generation of better-educated children with countless opportunities that don’t look back. The sacrifices the parents endured to get to America are enormous. The Cambodians who came here were given a gift from the Donut King, who built a thriving hard-working middle-class community in the donut business. At one point, he gets carried away with the cash, and this generation has college, medical, and law degrees, so running a donut shop is not necessarily what they want to do, but that is just a piece of the story.

If you have time over the holidays, watch the film. It feels good to watch and hear such an inspiring story these days. Puts faith back in humanity.