After 20 years abroad working in restaurants, hotels and nightclubs, An Vongsovang
is a returning Sino-Khmer with more panache than most.
For his Miramar restaurant - which opened last week on the ground floor of the old
Santepheap Hotel on Achar Mean Boulevard - he recruited Chan Vin Chu as chef who
remembers serving Charles De Gaulle when the French leader visited the Royal Palace
in Phnom Penh in the 1950s.
This is just part of the upgrade Vongsovang is supervising at the Santepheap, as
well as the Hotel Asie next door. The two hotels will be combined into 105 rooms
under the Hotel Asie name. A new elevator linking the two hotels may help lift the
no-star facilities to two-star status.
Vongsovang serves as executive director of a consortium of Hong Kong investors that
have 20-year leases on the two government-owned hotels. Retaining all the old staff
as a condition of the deal is testing his human resources management, he says.
The group is a few months away from finishing their own 120-room two star hotel,
Le Presidente, out on Kampuchea Vietnam Road. Other hotel projects may follow in
various vacation spots if peace prevails.
But what gets this former impresario most animated is bringing "le spectacle"
to his hometown, which he left in 1970. His life as an expat was split between Hong
Kong and Paris, where his family still runs several restaurants and a bar. Vongsovang
himself established the Capitol nightclub in Paris, which featured an Indochinese
His current dream is to find an old cinema or large house to create a venue providing
dinner, entertainment, and dancing. "It will be like the Lido in Paris,"