Feel good feasts
By dining at one of the many charitable restaurants operating in Siem Reap, you make a difference by supporting free education for local children as well as vocational training programmes, each of which aim to help alleviate poverty.
A short ride from town is Le Jardin des Délices, a training restaurant based at the renowned École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule, which offers vocational hospitality training to around 300 Cambodians each year. Enjoy Asian and Western set menus prepared and served by culinary students and their teachers.
On the outskirts of Siem Reap is Sala Bai Hotel & Restaurant School created by the French NGO “Agir Pour Le Cambodge” in October 2002. Each year the school trains – free of charge – more than 100 young disadvantaged Cambodians. with a priority given to girls (70%). They help to give underprivileged locals a leg up in the hospitality industry via free professional training. There are various a la carte options as well as Asian and Western set menus, which change every two weeks and cost from just $12 for starter, main and dessert.
Haven has also been training disadvantaged young adults valuable work skills at their restaurant, which moved to a tranquil garden location in the Wat Damnak area just over a year ago. Popular Cambodian, Asian and Western dishes, and some yummy fusions, feature on the carefully constructed menu, including the chef’s signature fish fillet with green mango, and the top-rated Khmer curry and Haven pumpkin burger.
Spoons in the Wat Damnak area is a training cafe for students of local nonprofit Everything’s Gonna Be OK (EGBOK), which provides culinary skills and job placement in the hospitality industry for young Cambodians. Dig in to an assortment of Cambodian cuisine classics, from street food items such as “num krok” (crispy coconut cream and spring onion dumplings) to home-style dishes like whole mackerel served grilled and deboned alongside coconut tamarind rice.
Butterflies Garden Restaurant is located inside a traditional wooden house on Street 25. Scrumptious Asian and Western food is on offer starting at just $1.50 from chefs trained at the Shinta Mani and Sala Bai training schools, with 20% of profits going to the staff and 10% to local charities. You’ll find yourself surrounded by butterflies and an exotic garden.
Heading into the town centre, you’ll find Common Grounds Cafe, a social enterprise that provides on-the-job training to men and women from impoverished areas. 100% of the cafe’s profits go towards funding development programs of its parent non-profit organisation People For Care & Learning. Tuck into a wholesome western fare such as a breakfast sandwich with bacon or a cheesy steak sandwich, or enjoy the local favourite, beef loc lac and rice. You’ll also be rewarded with a free soft drink for food purchases over $4.
New Leaf Book Cafe, on Olive Street opposite the Angkor Trade Centre, has been serving a fine mix of Cambodian and international cuisine since 2013, with 80% of the profits donated to local educational projects and charities, and 20% given to its Cambodian employees. Popular plates include smoked chili cashew chicken, fish amok and pork schnitzel with sweet potato mash.
For the sweet-toothed amongst you, there’s an establishment serving all manner of delectable desserts whilst offering free training, education and support to local women. Bayon Pastry School along Taphul Street includes a coffee shop, where you pick up sweet treats such as lime meringue pie, mango mousse and banana cake, and viennoiseries like croissants and raisin rolls. Set up in 2014, the Pastry School strictly selects and trains each year, for free, around 20 young women. They also provide them with accommodation, food and all training material. The goal is to help them to find a stable and a well-paid job at the end of the training.
Sister Srey Cafe support young Khmer students who struggle to keep a balance between study and supporting their family. Each staff member is trained in hospitality, English language skills, personal development, healthand hygiene and banking. A stepping stone to a brighter future.