We had the good fortune of connecting with Saeng Douangdara and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Saeng, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’ve always loved cooking, videography, and storytelling, but I didn’t know how it would translate into a career. I kept pursuing my passion project of sharing Lao food through social media and with every small milestone, it became more sustainable. My mission was to empower the Lao community and show them how valuable our experiences and food was through cooking. My desire to pursue a creative career is always community focused as I want to reflect the beauty and resilience of the Lao community. There is power in your own voice and your experiences and that translates to a collective power in a community’s identity.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started as a trained counselor, but left my 9-5 to pursue the creative field. I began working as a personal chef and then shifted into storytelling through Lao food. I get excited to share Lao food with everyone that I’m around and social media helped me reach the entire world. Not many people know about Lao food, so I knew there was a gap that I could fill. I combined my love for teaching, storytelling, and cooking and thus created Saeng’s Kitchen, a place to love, learn, and feel Lao food.
A big lesson I learned along the way is to always be flexible and shift when needed. When the pandemic began, I had to make a pivot and it gave me more time to put towards my video work. Essentially, it accelerated my creative work. No matter what I created, I always made sure to center it towards my mission of uplifting Lao food and the community.
I want the world to know that Lao food is one of the most delicious, unique, and pungent foods you will ever try. Its food that has been in the shadows for too long. It is time for Lao food to take center stage. It comes from a community with history that involves all of us. Whenever someone watches or listens to my creative work with Lao food, I hope they walk away with our history, culture, food, and appreciation for Laos. I hope I made a positive impact to my Lao community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would give them a full Lao food tour which includes restaurants and grocery stores. It will include a lot of driving since LA is so big. I would first take them to Luv2Eat in Hollywood because you can ask for Lao papaya salad and Lao laab. I would then head to Downtown Chinatown to explore the gigantic Southeast Asian mega store called LAX-C. We would then head up to North Hollywood and go to Kim Thai Food since they have a large section of Lao food in the swap meet. Finally, we would head to Garden Grove because my favorite Lao restaurant is Vientiane Restaurant.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The group that has uplifted me are the people in ‘Laos Angeles’; it’s a collective of creatives that are from the diaspora of Laos. They are made up of actors, producers, writers, photographers, and comedians. This collective has instilled my sense of community and what being Lao can look like. We are children of refugees, so we draw upon are shared experiences to create stories and uplift the community.
Ava Phengsy – prayer hand photo Dana Dang – Lao clothing photo Alex Tsao – sticky rice cooking photo