Not the regular, run-off-the-mill fusion restaurant of East meets West cuisine, Black Bambu sets the hospitality bar with fusions in ways more than one.
In partnership with non-profit organisation Cambodia Children’s Fund (CCF), Black Bambu provides a stepping stone for youth from the CCF to launch them into the working world, particularly in the hospitality industry.
“The decision to open up this restaurant was to train students from the CCF to give them some vocational training and skills that they can apply in real-life situations, so that they can hopefully move on from being fully supported by the CCF to becoming [fully] independent,” Tom O’ Connor, F&B consultant to Black Bambu, says.
The vocational training that Black Bambu provides is centered on building the trainees’ self-esteem, elevating their self-confidence so that they have more opportunities to apply their skills professionally. Currently, almost 90 per cent of the staff comes from the CCF.
“A lot of things come from confidence. Once you have confidence, you learn things quickly. Whether they are trained in bartending, making cocktails, pouring wine, associating with customers and speaking in English, these are all contributing factors to building their confidence,” O’Connor explains.
Black Bambu’s contemporary concept is evident in the restaurant’s structured lines and monochromatic theme. The double-storey restaurant features a wide front al fresco area with stone steps leading up to the entrance and a side al fresco patio, creating an airy feel that plays on space and natural light.
Having been in operation for a little over a year now, Black Bambu holds its own identity in serving up an eclectic mix of dishes and finely crafted cocktails. Apparent in its dishes, such as the House Made Riccota & Roasted Eggplant ($7) – which has Japanese edamame beans in it – the Grilled Beef Skewers with Pomegranate and Soy Glaze ($8.80), and Pork Belly with Soy Caramel ($9), are head chef Al Schaaf’s Japanese, Italian, Eastern-Mediterranean, and American inspirations.
“We try to strike a balance within the menu while offering a wide range of interesting items,” Schaaf says, adding that there are sharing platters that let guests taste different things all at once, as well as larger plates for individual consumption.
Not limited to only satiating customers’ appetites, the diverse range of food is part of Black Bambu’s aim in exposing the trainees to different flavours and different styles of cooking. Half of the kitchen staff are from CCF, while the other half are qualified and experienced workers who help with the training for the youth from the program.
“We still have our own identity as a fully functioning restaurant, and are not solely a free-for-all funding program. In that regard, we provide training to the staff to a high standard of service, and, ultimately, build people for the future of Cambodia,” says O’Connor.