Thyda Suon’s crepe business started out as a joke she made before she left France for Cambodia two years ago.
“My friends asked me what exactly I planned to do over here and I told them: ‘Oh, you know, make crepes’,” she says.
“But I was just kidding around.”
Fast forward two years and the 29-year-old is now the proud owner of a budding social enterprise.
The Rollin’ Crepe, which has four employees selling the tasty snacks around Phnom Penh from two mobile carts.
“I worked for a year here in Cambodia at an agricultural company but when my contract finished I decided I wanted to do something different,” she says.
“The amazing thing about Cambodia is that there are so many opportunities. You can do things even if they’re not your background.”
The sweet crepes and galettes (savoury crepes) are all named after major figures in rock ‘n’ roll from Cambodia and the West and cost between 4000 riel and 8000 riel apiece.
They include the Sinn Sisamouth (ham and cheese), Pan Ron (chicken, lime, pepper and cheese), Bob Dylan (home made caramel salty butter) and Elvis Presley (nutella and banana).
Thyda says crepes are a perfect street food: cheap, snack size, easy to eat while walking and not too messy.
“In France we always eat crepes in the street. They’re like our fast food,” she says. Thyda had learned how to make crepes during annual visits as a youngster to Brittany – the coastal province known as the home of the crepe in France – but says she needed a brief refresher watching some videos on YouTube to get the technique down again.
“You pour it like this,” she says, making a circular sweeping motion with her hand, “and then kind of turn it around. It’s hard to explain.”
After having two custom carts fabricated – including fridges for the perishable ingredients – the crepes started rolling around Phnom Penh’s streets about a month ago.
Thyda says business has been good so far.
Unsurprisingly, the carts do a solid trade while parked outside the French Rene Descartes High School and they have proven popular among curious Cambodians, who tend to prefer the savoury crepes made with buckwheat.
But for Thyda – who also teaches French a few hours each week and works for an NGO which teaches underprivileged Cambodian children yoga – the Rollin’ Crepe isn’t intended to be a financial money spinner.
The goal is to pass on business skills to her employees.
“I’ve been very transparent with them about how I’ve set up the business; how to formulate a business plan, the costs involved, that sort of thing,” she says.
“Hopefully they will be able to use the skills they’ve learned to go off and start up their own successful businesses.”
The Rollin’ Crepe carts regularly change locations but can often be found outside Rene Descartes High School, on the corner of Street 178 and Sothearos Boulevard and in the evenings outside Absinthe Bar on Street 51.
Check facebook.com/therollincrepe for updates.