Jeannie Ongkeo, a 65-year-old chef who moved from Laos to Queens in 1976, has preserved the recipes of her youth--despite the fact that New York's Laotian community is practically invisible. Although she's retired from cooking professionally, Ongkeo still brings Lao cuisine to life when she partakes in tak bat, a simple ritual of feeding Buddhist monks who are forbidden from feeding themselves.
Every few weeks, Ongkeo and her family visit her local temple with a home-cooked Lao specialty in hand. There, she joins the Thai majority in a communal ceremony that's still practiced today in many towns across Laos and Thailand. Feeding each other and keeping their shared tradition alive in this corner of Queens, they reconnect to the one reason that anybody should become a cook in the first place.