What drives us, inspires us and pushes us is family.

Anthony Bourdain’s passing has impacted people across the globe, and it got me contemplating about what drives us and inspires us as a team. He was such a great storyteller and one of the few mainstream voices that helped spotlight the wonders and beauty of Southeast Asia. In a small part, he inspired us to tell more of SAAP’s story and to take our family’s recipes into the mainstream. But while Anthony maybe the kindling to our collective interest in food, the fire and fuel that sustains our passion is our family.

Ironically and symbolically, I wrote this blog on the same day that my mom passed away 12 years ago from cancer. She was a huge force and influence in my brother’s and my life. My mom was the hardest worker I knew. She was a seamstress during the week, and she had a side hustle catering business on the weekends. My brother and I would help her pack meals and party trays to drop off at people’s houses. We were her little sous chefs, and we would talk about opening a restaurant together one day. I remember making a promise to her, as an innocent little kid, that we would make that dream happen. That promise still drives my brother and me to this day.

My aunts and my step-mom - the other SAAP moms - continue to be major influences on our team. They share the same passion for cooking as my mom and continue to inspire us with their never-ending work ethic. I don’t know how they do it sometimes; getting home from a long day of work and still managing to cook a huge dinner for everyone. They’re also great teachers for us. Frick and Frank’s mom’s house is the de-facto family headquarters for our gatherings in Texas. Every time we come pile in for a family celebration, my aunt is excited to teach us how to cook yet another dish she grew up eating. She doesn’t mind sharing her recipes because it truly brings her joy to see everyone enjoying her food. That joy is something we try to emulate every day at SAAP Lao Kitchen.

When you have a dream that’s just your own, it’s easy to make excuses for why it may not work out. However, when your dream is a part of something greater than you, you feel a sense of responsibility to do everything you can to make it a reality. Everything that we do is with our family in mind.

-Cliff Douangdara