Chef Seng Luangrath was only seven years old when she had her first cooking lesson from her grandmother in Laos. In 1981, her family, like thousands of other families, fled the country due to the impact of the Vietnam War. During her stay at a Thailand refugee camp of Nakhon Phanom, she learned how to cook from her camp neighbors, and elders. Her mother did not cook since she was busy working to maintain the stability of the family. As the oldest child, Chef Seng naturally took on the role of cook and caretaker for her four siblings at the age of twelve.
In 1983, her family arrived in the United States and resettled in the San Francisco Bay area. Her parents worked many long hours and again, Chef Seng found herself having to play the mother, babysitter, and cook role to her siblings. She didn’t mind it much, especially because she was her happiest being in the kitchen.
After marrying her husband, they relocated to the Washington, D.C. area and they started a flooring business. As the business flourished, Chef Seng’s heart felt heavier. She worked to support her husband in the business but she did not feel fulfilled doing the work inside the business. Her husband took note and asked her to work part-time to stay home and figure out what her passions were.
In those two years, she began catering for her husband’s clients and business partners. In 2007, after catering for a company party for a property management firm, one of the ladies who worked there called Chef Seng and said, “Seng, I think helping your husband with back-office support for the business is kind, but I really think you are in the wrong business. People just light up with your food and you should consider going into the food or restaurant business”. From that moment on, the idea simmered in her head but she didn’t quite know how to make it a profession except to continue slowly accepting catering orders.
In October 2009 she was asked again, this time by her financial planner to really think about pursuing her passion. She was asked to really embrace what made her the happiest and what fulfilled her most in life outside of her family. The answer was clear. Cooking and sharing Lao food with others had always been her greatest passion.
That meeting resonated with her. It pushed her to take action, so she and her husband began to look for restaurant space. In February of 2010, four months after
that meeting with her financial planner, Chef Seng and her husband signed a lease for a restaurant in Falls Church, VA. Bangkok Golden was re-launched March of 2010.
The restaurant has received raving reviews from publications such as The Washington Post, DC Socialite, DC Dining, Northern Virginia Magazine, and The Washingtonian. The steady flow of customers being exposed to Chef Seng’s unique style and recipes continue to fill her with pride.
Chef Seng’s greatest joys in life are her husband, her two sons, and actually living her
dream of being a Chef.
Her advice to others: “When you fall, just get back up. If you have a dream, follow it.
Focus on it every day and work toward making it your reality. Anything can happen. Anything is possible. I wake up every day and embrace that I’m truly living inside my dream.”
Bio written by Mali Creative