How chef Visoth Tarak Ouk became a leader of Long Beach's Khmer community

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Chef Visoth Tarak Ouk's loup de mer with ginger and scallions, left, and octopus in a yuzu and wasabi aioli with radishes, right, from his book, "Kroeng: Cambodian Cooking with Chef T." Photo courtesy of The Khmer Generations Project.

If someone told Visoth Tarak Ouk that he would be a chef with a successful culinary career, he wouldn't have believed them. With an early life in gangs, the pivotal moment in his life occurred when his sister died shortly before graduating college. Seeing his parents' grief, Ouk returned to culinary school. 

Chef T, as Ouk is known, has become a leader in the Khmer community of Long Beach, where his Cambodian parents eventually settled after immigrating from Thailand. His cookbook and memoir is "Kroeung: Cambodian Cooking with Chef T." Long Beach Cambodian Restaurant Week runs from March 19 to March 26.

Although Chef T always loved food and cooking, it was a tragic event in his family that prompted him to return to culinary school. Photo courtesy of the Rising Phoenix Long Beach.