If you go to a donut shop in California, and it’s not part of a chain (e.g. Winchell’s, Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme), the mom-and-pop owners are most likely to be Cambodian. Today, there are more than 5,000 such donut shops in California. The man responsible is Ted Ngoy, who escaped his homeland in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge was ravaging the nation, eventually killing a million people.
Ngoy is the subject of “The Donut King,” a documentary by Alice Gu which follows him from his days as a refugee fleeing to America to the opening of his own independent donut shop to the 100+ families of Cambodian refugees he sponsored. That allowed them to come to this country and follow in his footsteps. They all called him Uncle Ted and learned from him the basics of baking, frying, and selling donuts on the way to opening up their own franchises under his auspices. They were immigrants with nothing but a willingness to work hard, build businesses, save money, and give their kids better lives.
But “The Donut King” is not merely the success story of a self-made multi-millionaire. The documentary also reveals the lows of Uncle Ted’s life, including the downward spiral he found himself in during too many trips to Las Vegas, where his compulsive gambling went out of control. It also shows how they staved off competition from the bigger donut companies (with comments from some of the executives who tried to take market share).
In addition to the human stories, “The Donut King” includes plenty of shots of delicious-looking donuts of all shapes and sizes, many of which continue to get a boost as new flavors and designs are displayed on Instagram and other social media (usually by a savvy younger family member). If you don’t have a craving for sugary carbohydrate deliciousness when the movie’s over, have your saliva glands checked.
I give “The Donut King” a 7.5 out of 10. I got a sugar rush just watching it. Now streaming via video on demand from various platforms.