PHOTOS BY TOUC YIN VANNITH
There are many success stories in Cambodia that begin with poverty, and Lach Chan Hok’s life is no exception. But the path that he has taken out of the provinces has been particularly difficult and surprising. Today, Lach Chan Houk is a well-respected pastry chef and food designer for NagaWorld, but as a teenager he had no job, no father, didn’t have money to go to school and was addicted to drugs.
Lach Chan Houk’s life turned around when he met people from the Mith Samlanh organisation, which works with vulnerable urban youth. At first he was resistant to giving up his drug use, but he thought that if he continued, he would never have a chance at a better future, so he went to Mith Samlanh for assistance.
At the organisation he decided to study how to work in a restaurant, doing things like cooking, mixing wine with food and other skills related to the service industry.
According to Chi Vone, superviser of the cooking programme at Mith Samlanh, the organisation provides many skills for orphans or young children who do not have the means to study at good schools. Therefore, the organisation teaches students under 24 years old to work in places such as salons, restaurants, tailor shops and so on.
Of all these jobs, the skill that really attracted Lach Chan Houk was designing food, especially breads and pastries. “I worked in the FCC along the riverside, and one of the chefs who worked there taught me how to design new bread in strange styles,” he said, adding that he spent seven or eight months studying this skill.
Later, he applied to work in NagaWorld with the support of the director and staff at Mith Samlanh. As he talked about his first day on the job, a smile spread across Lach Chan Houk’s face. He said that he never thought that he could reach the point in his life when he could work in a modern place like NagaWorld.
He currently works at night making many different types of breads and pastries. Some specialities of his are moon cakes and kazoo cakes, which he said are unique from other types of cakes. Looking back on his life, Lach Chan Houk said that drug users should stand up and fight the drugs and refuse to let themselves be dominated by their habit. He said it helps to find something, like baking, to be passionate about and proud of.