In one of the most life changing events of his 68 years, French cycling enthusiast Paul Dubrule embarked on a bicycle journey of 15,272km from Fontainebleau in France to Siem Reap, in February 2002.

Eight months later, armed with a strong background in hospitality and pure determination, he founded the Ecole d’Hotellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule (EHL).

Today, the Siem Reap-based organisation marks more than 20 years of its mission to grow the hospitality sector in Cambodia. About 4,000 graduates have passed through the school.

“In our 20 years of skills development, we have established fruitful collaborations with numerous local and international organisations to improve the livelihoods of Cambodians through up-skilling and providing quality education and decent employment opportunities for economic growth,” said Enrique Blanco, projects and communications manager of the school.

The hospitality business school is hosting a December 2 charity dinner to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The event will be presided over by Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and founder Paul Dubrule.

All profits from the gala event will be added to the school’s scholarship fund to support the education and development of vulnerable Cambodian youth, said an EHL press release.

This unique and exclusive event will provide a major opportunity to network with key players in the hospitality and tourism industry and public figures, it added.

The hospitality school offers five programmes: Food and Beverage Service, Food Production Cookery, Food Production Patisserie, Front Office and Housekeeping, and Travel Agency Operations.

Blanco said patisserie skills – baking and pastry – was the most popular course.

Kimluy Srun, 22, from Battambang was introduced to the school by a colleague while working as a receptionist in her hometown. In 2021, Srun graduated.

“It’s a really nice resource for the hospitality industry,” said Srun, who spent ten months in the Travel Agency Operations programme.

Currently she is doing an internship at EHL as a project coordinator and administrator, a field which closely related to her qualification.

“I really enjoy working at the school. Everyone is nice, and very professional,” she told The Post.

Paul Dubrule, co-founder of Accor Hotels, Europe’s largest hospitality company, was deeply impressed by Cambodia and moved by its vulnerable people after his first trip to the Kingdom in 1998.

As mayor of Fontainebleau in France, his first step was to promote the twinning of his town with Siem Reap.

He created the school as a personal initiative while serving as a member of the French Senate from 1999 to 2004, representing Seine-et-Marne.

“We believe that training and qualifications are the keys to the future of each individual,” he said.

The school has partnered with Accor Hotels to offer a Diploma in Hospitality Management since 2016.

The school has offered full scholarships to more than 1,000 students since 2003, with more than 100 of the students drawn from partner civil organisations.

“At EHL, learning and fun are part of the students’ curriculum,” said Blanco, adding that “from classrooms to internships, events to field trips, every step is designed to enrich the student’s learning journey.”

“The students enhance their skills in a real-life environment including 12 fully-equipped classrooms, 3 computer labs, a library with 2500+ books, 2 seminar rooms, one auditorium, a training restaurant, a pedagogical kitchen, a pastry workshop, a bakery workshop and 4 training hotel rooms.

“We encourage students to live an exemplary life that embraces EHL’s values, mutual respect, social engagement and shared goals and passions,” he added.

Unable to apply for a scholarship, Vuthy Te worked for four years to save the tuition fees he needed.

He worked as a waiter in a Siem Reap restaurant for two years and for another two years at Angkor Zipline, where he saved enough to pursue his dream of studying food production and becoming a chef.

“Ordinarily, the course starts in January and finishes in October. This year is special. Because it is the 20th anniversary, the students can stay for an entire year. In addition, I was only asked to pay $800, rather than the usual $2,000,” Te, 24, told The Post.

He said the course focuses on both classroom and kitchen practice by alternating groups from week to week. The school is very flexible and can meet most students’ needs.

He added that a standard 10-month course would give him the skills he needed to fins work at a multi star rated restaurant or hotel.

“I wish to run a restaurant of my own, but without capital, I intend to find work in the field so I can learn more, while also saving money,” he said.

EHL School is hosting several events in the last week of November and will welcome over 400 guests, including national and international executives and key players of the hospitality and tourism industry, along with high-ranking officials from several ministries.

The event will start with an entrepreneur challenge, cycling tour, guided tour of the school, a main ceremony and the charity gala dinner.

The gala dinner, on Friday December 2 at the school, will be served by students of the school, and with a seven course fine dining menu and exquisite wine pairing, is sure to pamper those fortunate enough to attend.

Several award-winning national and international chefs are participating, each preparing one or more courses of the menu.

“Two of them are former students of the school,” said a press release, adding that “a special musical performance, consisting of piano, clarinet, violin, and tro Khmer, will complement each course, in accordance with the chef’s creations.”

During the evening, a live art auction will take place featuring famous local and international artists that have exhibited their art in Paris, New York, and other art capitals of the world.

Participants will be able to bid and collect exclusive art pieces, with all profit going to the school’s NGO scholarship fund. Bids may be placed through the website.

In addition, a lucky draw will give them the opportunity to win exclusive prizes from prestigious hotel properties in Southeast Asia and other amazing experiences in Cambodia.