The riveting saga of “The Donut King,” who was seduced by dough, money and power

Yes, there are dozens upon dozens of donuts in Alice Gu’s enlightening documentary, “The Donut King.” But there is more to the story of subject Ted Ngoy than just fried, sugary confections. Behind the cream filling, icing, and sprinkles is the story of immigrant families, and the American Dream.

According to Ted, he owned around 70 donut shops in California during the height of his success. In fact, he was such a powerful businessman, his stores kept Dunkin’ Donuts from entering the marketplace. (He was trained by Winchell’s Donut House and then “drank their milkshake,” expanding his stores as Winchell’s franchise shrank).

Gu addresses this history, but there is actually more at stake here. Ngoy is Cambodian and he was in Phnom Penh when it fell. He was fortunate to escape with his wife, two kids and some relatives, arriving in California where he and his family were housed in a refugee camp. After a month in the States, he was sponsored by a church and started working various jobs to provide for his family. At one job, at a gas station, he smelled donuts, and that led not just to him building an empire, but sponsoring other Cambodians to come to the States, and giving them jobs. He saved more than a hundred of families through his efforts.

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