The Donut King

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THE DONUT KING // Director Alex Gu

AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 06 – 20 // $9.99

Everything you thought you knew about the donut begins with Ted Ngoy. This is the unlikely story of a Cambodian refugee arriving in America in 1975 and building a multi-million-dollar empire baking America’s favorite pastry, the donut.

A portion of the proceeds of the sale of The Donut King will be donated to Refugees International as part of the Filmmakers’ impact campaign.


As an LA-born and raised child of Chinese immigrants, I grew up like any other normal American kid – I had loads of friends, took ballet, tennis, piano, you name it. I went to sleepovers, ate hamburgers, and pursued the career of my dreams.

I learned of Ted Ngoy’s story after having a conversation with my nanny about “Cambodian donuts”. I pressed her to explain what exactly a Cambodian donut was, and she said it was a donut made by Cambodian people. I argued that it was still just a donut, not a Cambodian donut. This seemingly innocuous conversation led me to research more about the Cambodian donuts and I found an article about Ted Ngoy, The Donut King. I discovered that there are an estimated 5,000 independent donut shops in California and Cambodians own up to 80% of them. I became fascinated by the irony that one of the most American foods, the donut, is nearly entirely made by Cambodians west of the Mississippi. I found the Donut King, now living in Cambodia, and two months later I was there filming.

Ted’s story was much more than I had initially imagined – as a man who escaped the Khmer Rouge and genocide, arrived as a refugee at Camp Pendleton (a military base in Southern California) and then by virtue of hard work he became a millionaire just three years later. Though my parents were not shop owners, I instantly connected with the immigrant story of my parents’ own journey from China, fleeing the Communist Revolution.

Through my travels, I came to realize that we all, collectively, are not so different from one another. We want the same basic things – to be loved, to feel secure, to have food, opportunity, and to be able to provide. I couldn’t ignore the parallels regarding immigrants/refugees in 1975 and 2019. I couldn’t ignore the difference in attitudes and leadership between then and now. While making this film, I couldn’t have felt prouder to be an American and proud of American ideals, or rather, what I know American ideals to be. In a time of such divisiveness, I wanted to present a story of the American Dram and togetherness. I hope audiences have fun watching. The film — after all, it is about donuts — but it also gives a human fact to refugees and dreams that can be realized, if just given a chance.