Cooking Up Some Inspiration!

This past weekend, a group of Free To Shine beneficiaries and team members participated in a unique, culinary training in Siem Reap. Our friends at POU Restaurant, Asian Street Food Cambodia and the Cambodian Chef’s Association organised a weekend event to showcase Siem Reap's inspiring food community and provide the younger generation with experience in the field.

The training was an intensive, two-day immersion into the restaurant industry and provided the participants with a wide range of cooking skills and an understanding of what it takes to become a chef: creativity, hard work and lots of practice!The participants spent hours learning and practising Khmer, Western and fusion cooking skills.

After two full days, their skills were put to the test! Each student was paired up with one of the talented chefs from the Cambodian Chef’s Association to design, prepare and serve up a signature small dish for a fancy 18 course “degustation” dinner at Anjali by Syphon – for real, paying customers!

There was a lot on the line, but the event was a huge success and the guests were amazed by the wide range of creative, delicious dishes that were presented to them.Most dishes took traditional Khmer flavours or ingredients, and elevated them in an inspiring way – whether that be through a fusion of flavour combinations, modern techniques or artistic plating – to create something totally new and exciting.

Full Menu:

One of Free To Shine’s beneficiaries, now a student at University, has always dreamt of becoming a chef. Phanna, her Education Officer explains: "she loved [the training] and was so happy and smiling the entire time- everyone else was exhausted at the end of the busy, two days but she was still full of energy and excitement!" Phanna plans to follow up with her and talk about future trainings, her goals and how Free To Shine can help her achieve them!At the end of the final course, the chefs and students came out to get their certificates and were greeted by a standing ovation from the happy diners!

The Free To Shine team members that attended took careful notes and will share what they learned with other Free To Shine beneficiaries. Currently, we are running a series of career pathways and goal-setting workshops for the girls on our program. Now, with a much better understanding of what it takes to become a top chef, our team members can share their experience with girls who are interested in the restaurant industry.A HUGE thank you to the organisers of this training for sponsoring our beneficiaries and team members to attend for free. It was an inspiring experience for everyone involved and one they will not soon forget!

Free To Shine partners with ethical businesses in Siem Reap, such as POU Restaurant, for mutual benefit. If you are part of a local business and have ideas for potential collaboration, we would love to hear from you!

+ a special thanks to the following for attending the event and allowing us to share their beautiful photos!

Pov Lee

Keo Rattana


Yen VanDara