It’s The Apprentice, Siem Reap-style

Peter Olszewski No Comments Share:
These apprentices are very unlikely to face getting the sack by an overbearing boss. Supplied

Five hotshot culinary apprentices fresh from France are now on a big learning curve in Siem Reap.
The apprentices are in town as part of an innovative program between French foundation for youth Apprentis d’Auteuil, the Ecole Paul Dubrule School of Hospitality and Tourism and Restaurant Collection, a group of local restaurants that until last month was known as the AngkorW group.
The apprentices – Julien Souanto, Jade Fernandez, Emmanuelle Lieutaud, Sofiane Bouaziz and Sara Hamlaoui – are spending six weeks in town until the program’s end on February 26. 
Restaurant Collection communications and public relations manager Sophie Clemenson said they have already spent two weeks at Ecole Paul Dubrule and started their training in restaurants on January 30.
According to Fernandez, a feisty 20-year-old from Marseille, the French apprentices are giving as much as they get – they are sharing on their cultural culinary experiences with their Khmer co-workers and in return learning about Khmer cuisine and hospitality.
“I like the Khmer culture,” said Fernandez. “The Khmer are sharing a lot of experiences about this job with us and I’m falling in love with Siem Reap.”
Fernandez had a heart-stopper of a work experience – not to mention a whiff of tear gas – in a Marseille restaurant last June when the venue was one of several trashed by football hooligans during the opening days of the Euro 2016 football tournament. 
“Violence and hooliganism raged in Marseille’s Old Port district as drunken soccer fans caused havoc,” reported one news outlet at the time.
Did the incident unnerve Fernandez? “No,” she stressed. “Because I’m a strong woman, I come from Marseille.”
But witnessing the clash of cultures made her aware of the big wide world outside of Marseille and her need to engage internationally.
She saw the Apprentis d’Auteuil project advertised on the web and signed up.
“I wanted to have international experience with work in a tourism restaurant to have a good opportunity for my future,” she said. “There’s a lack of qualified staff in Marseille.”
Despite her youth, Fernandez has already notched up extensive work experience in the restaurant business. She’s even worked as a restaurant manager for a year but doesn’t view coming to Siem Reap as a humble apprentice as a step down.
“I need to go back to class to learn,” she said. “It’s obvious for me.”
And, as a refreshing aside, she’s never heard of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV program.
The Siem Reap apprentice program had its genesis last November with the NGO Ecole d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule, established in Siem Reap in 2002 to prepare students for a dynamic career in the hospitality and tourism industry.
The school now provides training to more than 300 Cambodians a year.
“Ecole d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule and Apprentis D’Auteuil signed a partnership agreement on November 2, 2016, with the purpose to facilitate a cultural exchange program for their students,” said school director Helga Nagy.
“Apprentis D’Auteuil students undertook a highly interactive and practical F&B [food and beverage] training program at EHT Paul Dubrule as part of their formation in France.
“The program has been extended to a consecutive four-week internship with local partners, with EHT Paul Dubrule playing an introductory role for seeking potential partners.”
The apprentices, after two weeks at the school, are spending their final four weeks practicing in different Restaurant Collection venues, including Champey, The Grey Khmer Grill, The Ten Bells, Madame Butterfly and Embassy.
Clemenson, from the Restaurant Collection, said: “Rotations will be organized so the students can get different experiences, from royal Khmer cuisine to seasonal gastronomy.
“Ecole Paul Dubrule and Restaurant Collection are in a long-term partnership, since the group always needs high quality personnel to keep reaching its standards of excellence.”
The apprentice program included three months of theoretical training with L’Ouvre Boite – a support tool within Apprentis d’Auteui – in Marseille before the apprentices arrived in Siem Reap.
L’Ouvre Boite’s communications manager Gregoire Allin also accompanied the group in Siem Reap for some of the time and he said the organization is “a business nursery to provide training and then to find jobs for a lot of young people who need help.”

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