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EMERALD EATS: Theary’s Kitchen

Emerald Eats is a bi-monthly documentary series featuring chefs, farmers, and entrepreneurs who are building a more diverse, meaningful food culture in South Seattle and South King County. This series will focus on local businesses and the role they play in the fight for more sustainable and equitable food systems in our communities. We’ll bring you behind the scenes — and into the lives — of the people transforming what we eat through community, culture, tradition, and innovation.

by Dylan Cate


Can cooking reconnect us to loved ones we’ve lost? Can changing our relationship to food also change our relationship to our parents and our past? 

Theary Ngeth’s relationship with food has always been complicated. When she was a young child in Cambodia, her family escaped the Khmer Rouge, bringing only what they could carry.  They ate only what they could find along their long journey to a refugee camp in Thailand.  When her family ultimately settled in the U.S., Theary’s mom was a prolific and accomplished cook — but the food was always for someone else. As the wife of a buddhist priest, she fed the community at weddings, social gatherings, and a community center for Cambodian elders. So as a teenager, Theary rejected cooking, doing whatever she could to avoid the kitchen when her mother prepared big meals. For Theary, these meals were the reason her parents spent plenty of time and attention to nourish the community but never enough time with her.  

Everything changed for Theary, however, when her mom passed away. Now, running her own Cambodian food kiosk in South Seattle, Theary isn’t just trying to reconnect with her community. She’s forging a new relationship with her mom’s memory and taking up the legacy her mother left behind. Watch her story here, on Emerald Eats

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