The Kingdom of Cambodia is rife with emerging young talents in different industries, and one of the most underrated spheres is culinary. Anith Adilah Othman recently sat with a group of young chefs from the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia (ACAC) who will sharpen their culinary skills further by going on a six-month training at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Lyon, France.
Since its inception in 2017, this will be the first time the prestigious academy is sending its students on an internship in France – and not just on any restaurant. The students will have a first-hand experience working with the crème de la crème when it comes to French gastronomy. Over the years, the academy is known to send their students to do internship in other countries such as United Arab Emirates, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, but this will be the first time their students will be honing their crafts in France – the epicenter of culinary arts.
For one of them, Rithysak Nuon, the internship would mean working in the kitchen of one of his idols in the global culinary platform, Michelin-star Chef Guy Lassausaie. The 18-year-old said he was in love with Chef Lassausaie’s personal approach towards cooking after having had the chance to sample his gastronomical creations during the Goût de France/Good France celebration in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
“It was an elaborate seven-course dinner but I know I should not miss the opportunity so I forked out my own money and it was well worth it. Thanks to the Academy’s connection with the Chef, I also got the chance to meet and take a picture with him. Now, just months later, I am going to be working in his kitchen. I am so excited,” he gushed.
Nuon and his peer Heng Chanvathtey, 20, will be trained at Restaurant Guy Lassausaie in the commune of Chasselay, from the end of May until November. The Chef took over a restaurant founded by his great-grandfather some 80 years ago and is now the fourth generation of his family to have worked in the kitchen. Chef Lassausaie is known to serve traditional Lyon cuisine with a little twist of surprising ingredients.
Meanwhile, for another student Hellina Sarin, this would be another chance to view a city she previously studied in from a different perspective. The 27-year-old, who was thrilled by the opportunity, could not hide her excitement.
“It will be a different experience than when I travelled to Europe or when I studied in France previously. This time, we will probably have to work around the clock but I am looking forward to it. I truly appreciate the chance to work closely with some of the most legendary chefs and learn from them,” she said.
Hellina will be paired with Chinese-born Du Yi, 28, for six months at Michelin-star Chef Philippe Girardon’s restaurant Domaine De Clairefontaine. Chef Girardon is especially popular for being highly selective with his choice of ingredients, emphasising the need to only use products that are fresh to guarantee a stellar gastronomical experience.
Another student, Sada Sun, 28, said he hopes to learn the intricate techniques involving French cuisine which he could possibly incorporate into traditional Khmer food.
“I like to cook because good food brings smiles to people’s faces. As much as I love my local delicacies, I also enjoy French cuisine. It is also known how complex French cuisine is so I’m expecting this to be a challenging experience but also a fruitful one,” he said.
Sada, together with another peer, 21-year-old Neang Morng will be trained by Chef Serge Chenet at La Maison Domaine de Bournissac in the countryside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The duo will be learning from Chef Chenet, who started his own career by working at some of the most renowned Michelin-starred establishments in France such as Château de Rochegude.
The academy will also be sending another foreign student from Mexico, Juan Osorio, to be trained by Chef Christian Têtedoie – one of the most famous protégés of multi Michelin-star winner Chef Georges Blanc.
ACAC Public Relations Manager Chhay Sophy, who was also present during the interview, said the collaboration was made possible through a close network that the academy maintains with global partners. She added that the academy wishes for similar opportunities to be given to more of its students in the future.
“We are the first institution in the country to offer an internationally-recognised higher diploma/associate degree in culinary arts. Our technical partner, the Swiss Hotel Management School Lucerne (SHL), ensures that our graduates are certified and have the necessary skills to embark on a successful career in the hospitality industry.
“Our governing board is also well connected with key leaders from the government, the private sector and professional industry groups including Almond Group and Thalias Hospitality. The connections that our students during their internships for instance will help guarantee job placements upon graduation,” she told Good Times2.