‘Cambodian Cowboy’ Charms California Foodies With Cultural Spin on BBQ

Chad Phuong blends American barbecue with Cambodian flavors, and is taking Southern California by storm.

One pitmaster certainly turns heads by always wearing his hat and boots, but Chad Phuong — known as the "Cambodian Cowboy" — has got the smoker skills to prove it.

His roving business, blending American barbecue with Cambodian flavors, is taking Southern California by storm.

“What's the Asian guy doing with, with some boots and a hat on, like trying to sell barbecue as a gimmick and stuff,” he told CBS News.

It started in 1980, when Phuong and his family came to California as refugees from Cambodia. He lost his father to the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

“I remember vividly every, every, every stuff that happened, we had to walk through landmines, through sniper fire, even sleeping in the jungle just to make it to the Thai Cambodian border for help,” he told CBS News.

He moved to Texas for a while where he and his stepfather spent their weekends mastering the art of American barbecue, adding their beloved Cambodian flavors to their recipes.

He eventually moved back to California, and after losing his job during the pandemic, he threw all of his money into making his hobby his new career.

He’s developed a loyal customer base that keeps coming back for more finger-licking goodness.

Phuong says he hopes to open a restaurant in the near future, but in the meantime he’s going to keep rolling his smoker around Long Beach giving his all to his hungry customers.

“I give 110% wherever I go and no slacking. Once I lace my boots and put on my hat and start cutting the meat,” he said.

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