Cambodia’s has built a reputation of a destination for fine food. Even The New York Times has already covered Phnom Penh’s buzzing high-end bar and restaurant scene.
It is no coincidence that Cambodia is already one seen as one of Asia’s gastro-pearls. The Kingdom’s master chefs organised themselves and assembled devoted gourmets. All are members in the ancient Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – a brotherhood of about 25,000 members in 80 countries, the world’s largest international gastronomic association. The brotherhood dates back to France in 1248 when King Louis IX issued a decree to organise goose roasters into a guild.
Members of the “guild” of Cambodia these days don’t roast geese all that often but they come together to celebrate and appreciate fine dining, and most importantly, further cuisine in Cambodia.
Master chefs like Topaz’s Alain Darc are tirelessly keeping up with gastro trends from abroad while based inside Cambodia. In a recent interview with The Post, the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs member revealed that a peculiar new invention would be discussed in one of the next brotherhood meetings.
Apparently, a new kitchen machine from Australia can turn a piece of dry beef into a beautifully marbled and juicy prime cut by ingesting beef fat into the muscle tissue. Will this be the end of Kobe beef – a product that is so tender and expensive because the Kobe cows drink beer, have a personal masseur and their hooves never touch the ground while they are alive?
The brotherhood will get to the bottom of it.
Apart from discussing ways to make beef juicier, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs organises Cambodian junior chef capacity building overseas.
In the past year, the Cambodian branch of the brotherhood has been broadening the Kingdom’s palate by sending young, promising chefs overseas to learn the cuisines of other cultures.
Speaking at a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs wine tasting at Almond Hotel, hotel owner Luu Meng said the increasing business and tourism coming into Cambodia meant different choices of cuisine are needed in the Kingdom.
So far this year, the Chaîne has sent eight young chefs to international destinations to hone their cooking skills, with the list of countries including India, China, Malaysia and France. Although it’s a costly venture, Meng says it is very important. “They not only learn to serve, but they also open their mind overseas to different ways of service and different cultures,” he said, “When they come back they are a different person.”
Chefs are sent to a country for periods of one, three and six months depending on the skills taught. Upon returning, the master chef who has been overseeing the local chef’s training accompanies them back to Cambodia and works with them for one or two months to ensure their cooking performance is up to standard. The local chef then becomes a teacher for other budding Cambodian chefs and is able to share the skills and knowledge they have acquired.
International trips also provide a training platform for new restaurants. Restaurant chain Secret Recipe now has four outlets in Cambodia, but before opening staff were sent to international destinations to complete their training.
The work of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs helps to fill the gap in Cambodia for private, quality cooking schools, says Luu. “We have a lot of NGO schools, which is very good for teaching at a basic level, but right now we need really professional, skilled people,” he said.
All pictures were taken at the last Chaîne Dinner at Topaz restaurant on November 24