A team of five Siem Reap chefs won a silver medal at their debut appearance in an international culinary contest in Pattaya, despite almost being derailed by over-bearing Thai customs officials.
Siem Reap Chef’s Club coordinator and team leader Chan Sophea, the food and beverage manager at Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa, said the team suffered a setback at the Thai border while travelling to Thailand’s biggest hospitality art competition and showcase, the Pattaya City Culinary Cup 2012, which was held last month from July 26-28.
Chan Sophea said that unfortunately when the Cambodian team reached the border, they were held up for about 3.5 hours by Thai customs who would not allow them to bring all their equipment.
He said, “Everyone got very tired and stressful, but we still managed to get to the first meeting at Pattaya city on time.”
And happily the team prevailed, surprising everyone, possibly even themselves, by coming second in the contest and winning the silver medal in their debut performance.
Chan Sophea told Insider, “We are Cambodian and we are proud to win the silver medal for the first cheer.”
He said the five chefs competing in the team were representatives of Cambodia with a mission to show Khmer cuisine to the world.
He added, “We tried with our full commitment and all our hearts to succeed. It was very challenging competition. The judges scored not only on the taste of the food we cooked, but also on the creative preparation, clean hygiene, and teamwork activities.
“The competition started at 10am and ran until 3:30pm. We ate nothing that day, but we were full with hope and confidence.”
Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa’s general manager Hanno Stamm accompanied the team to the contest, which he said was very professional and tough.
“The competitions were not limited to cooking, but also included housekeeping, waiter, and bar competitions,” he said. “The whole thing lasted three days, with our chefs cooking on the last day. This obviously caused not a little anxiety among our chefs as they watched the other competitors doing their thing the first couple of days.
“I think our chefs did a bloody good job. Although they are all very capable, they had never competed nationally or internationally before. Cooking in front of judges and spectators must have played havoc with their nerves. Personally, I am very proud of all of them and I think it was great how they represented their hotels and Cambodia. But it would have been nice to get some support from the government.
We could not even get posters or brochures from the Ministry of Tourism.
“But apart from doing very well, the team also had a chance to see how things are done outside Siem Reap. I think even more important than the silver medal is the experiences they gained.”
The comprised five leading Siem Reap hotel chefs: two from Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa, one from Grand Soluxe Angkor Palace Resort and Spa, one from Sokhalay Angkor Resort and Spa, and one from Ree Hotel.
Training took place at the Victoria, and the hotel was the driver in getting the team to Thailand.
Hanno Stamm said, “The whole thing came about as a bit of an accident: the competition organiser, Mr Willment Leong, came to Siem Reap to visit our chef Vuthy – they used to work at the Raffles together.
“Whilst here, he started talking about the upcoming competition and wanted to know if chefs here in Siem Reap had ever done anything like that before. It was at this stage that Vuthy and Sophea, our food and beverage manager came to see me and asked if I was willing to support the idea.
“Sure I was! Not because I thought that they would stand much of a chance to be honest, but because I thought it would be a great learning experience. Subsequently, the chefs came to the Victoria every Sunday for four weeks to practice.”