Good cause dining has a new contender in the Kingdom’s second-largest city, with the March 5 opening of Green Mango Café and Bakery in Battambang.
The new café is part of the US-based NGO Center for Global Impact’s vocational training initiative in Cambodia, which already includes two sewing skills projects in Phnom Penh working with poor women and at-risk girls.
This is the CGI’s first venture into the north-western city.
Of the six young women who now staff the Green Mango Café, four come from nearby orphanages and two from impoverished local families.
The opening of the Green Mango is the culmination of an 18-month course where participants first sharpened basic skills like maths and English, and then undertook a rigorous US culinary school curriculum.
“I wanted to study. I wanted to know about cooking for my future,” says Ham Sreyneang, 21, when asked why she joined the program. Ham Sreyneang, who was connected to the training through SKO orphanage, hopes to eventually work at a restaurant in Phnom Penh.
Ryanna De Armond, the café’s head chef, says that what makes the restaurant unique is that everything is made in-house – from the peanut butter and chorizo sausage, to the ricotta cheese and croissants.
The young women have learned to make everything from scratch.
“That’s something that many restaurants are lacking,” says De Armond. ”So they will be very desirable employees.”
The head chef says ingredients are locally sourced and some, like the coriander, peppers and cucumbers, are even grown in the café’s own garden.
In July, a new batch of 12 young women will begin the second round of training, and some of the current students will take on leadership roles.
“The plan is to let the restaurant be fully Khmer-run,” she says, adding that CGI has sponsored a young woman to study in the US so she can return to run the café.
The Green Mango has wi-fi and outdoor seating, and the sleek design includes glass doors that give diners a peek into the spotless kitchen – a bonus for those hygiene-conscious foreigners.
The Green Mango Café and Bakery is located across the river from the city centre on Chong Spean Chas, House #169, in front of the Park Hotel, Battambang City.