Good & Golden brings Lao cuisine to Denton – North Texas Daily

A group of diners gather around the kitchen as Lasamee Kittavong, a 29-year-old university graduate, begins her show. Holding on to a mortar and pestle, she teaches the crowd how to make jio sauce. Traditional sticky rice baskets sit on the stove waiting to be used for her next lesson.

The communal kitchen is inspired by the dishes of Kittavong’s childhood. She was raised by a family of Lao refugees in the United States, and she said they are what connects her to her culture. As founder and co-owner of Good & Golden, she brings this authentic American Laotian and Laotian food to the Denton community.

“Being able to share that with people is not just like, ‘Here’s some food and I hope you like it,'” Kittavong said. “It’s like, ‘This is the food that feeds my soul, that connects me with my heritage.'”

Good & Golden was started in 2019 by Kittavong and her husband, alumnus and co-owner Blake Atwood. The couple saw a number of Thai restaurants open throughout the local area. They felt the community would be open to trying Laotian cuisine, which Kitavong said is often disguised as Thai food.

“I think the main reason we do business is to share my food with people in Denton and people who have never heard of it,” Kittavong said. “It’s really about educating people and sharing this kitchen that I really love.”

To help start the business and establish it as an LLC, Kittavong and Atwood launched a Kickstarter for Good & Golden on Kittavong’s Golden Birthday last fall. The target was originally set at $2,900 and was fully funded within two weeks. Before Kickstarter closed, it was nearly 200% funded.

Atwood said initial support from his community explained why the couple started their food business.

“We’re excited to bring something new to Denton and I think Denton is excited about that as well,” said Atwood.

Apart from placing orders online, Good & Golden also appears in local markets, often with the Kittavong family.

“It was overwhelming in terms of how we feel so welcomed by Denton,” Kitavong said. “It is as much a passion project as it is a business […] So it fills my heart. “

The couple often host interactive dinners where they teach attendees how to prepare and serve a variety of traditional Lao dishes. The next all-sold-out dinner experience will take place at True Leaf Studio on July 30.

Kittavong and Atwood said learning from and collaborating with other local business owners, such as those at True Leaf, boosted their own motivation. Atwood said that receiving such support from the business community in Denton made them feel more welcome and accepted as Good & Golden developed.

“It was really a competition collaboration,” Atwood said. “It was great to not only help the general public, but also small business owners.”

Andrew O’Brien, a college graduate and owner of O’Brien Brothers Bread, is one of the many local Kittavong business owners they consider a mentor and friend, Atwood said. O’Brien said the pair are really easy to talk about in what they offer through Good & Golden. From beautiful Instagram photos to tasting delicious food, he said seeing their growth and success proves how special the business is.

“There are so many delicious things that we can enjoy, and it takes someone like Lasamee and Blake to take the leap to put something really personal out there,” O’Brien said. “I hope it happens more because in the end it’s what makes Denton the kind of beautiful place it is.”

Kittavong said the encouragement from both business owners and brand customers demonstrates Denton’s own strengths as a community and business support.

“This experience has just boosted the number of people in Denton who will come together to support a new startup and truly love and stand behind you,” said Kittavong. “Just being validated by people we value and respect has definitely helped us move forward.”

After seeing community support, both online and in person, Kittavong said she cries after nearly every major event. She said that seeing others take an interest in her food is very personal to her. Although she is far from the motherland, Kitavong said she hopes others will continue to establish authentic Lao connections through Good & Golden.

“We just want people to get the most out of us,” Kitavong said. “It’s not just about the food, we also want people to know about Laos.”

Above all, Kittavong said she wishes Good & Golden and her community to grow together. By expanding others’ palettes to include a new kitchen, she said others can see all the vibrancy and culture that Laos has to offer.

“Having people come to our table, even if they don’t know what Lao food is, is incredibly moving,” said Kittavong. “I am on the right track now. This is how I feel.”

Featured Image: Lasamee Kittavong and Blake Atwood poses with cooking utensils on July 8, 2022. Photo by Anthony Rubio

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