If you ever wondered why there are so few Dunkin’ Donuts shops in California and Los Angeles compared to the rest of the country and why there are dozens of smaller donut shops everywhere, Ted Ngoy aka “The Donut King” is the reason why.
Ngoy is a Cambodian refugee who came to American in 1975 and founded an empire of donut shops across the West coast. But as the documentary “The Donut King” about his life shows he cooked up more than round pastries when he got here.
“The Donut King” is a documentary by Alice Gu and was an official selection of the canceled 2020 SXSW Film Festival, but it will now debut online and in select theaters from Greenwich Entertainment on October 30 after playing the rounds of a handful of fall film festivals.
Gu shows in the film that you can still see Ngoy’s influence in Los Angeles today with the sheer number of donut shops around town, and an expert in the film says that his control was so widespread in the ’70s that despite the best efforts by Dunkin’ Donuts to break through, they eventually gave up.
But Ngoy built his empire by sponsoring hundreds of visas for fellow Cambodian immigrants and helped them build their own donut businesses, teaching them the ropes and helping them get on their feet and build their own families. “The Donut King” explains that by the mid-90s, Cambodian Americans owned nearly 80% of the donut industry as a result of Ngoy’s influence. That is until Ngoy’s fall.
“Imagine, a man with nothing, penniless, comes to the most powerful country in the world, and he built something,” Ngoy says of the American Dream, one that even earned him a visit from President Bush Sr. “I lost everything, believe me, everything.”
Check out the trailer for “The Donut King” above.