Sala Baï Hotel School held its fourth and final ‘Great Chefs Meet Great Students’ dinner last week, with a special menu created by Angkor W executive chefs Kimsan Sok and Kimsan Pol.
The dinner was part of Sala Baï’s bid to expose its students to different established chefs in Siem Reap, and it followed previous monthly soirees featuring invited guest chefs Richard Bias from La Résidence d’Angkor; Pola Siv, chef-owner of Mie Café and Wade James from Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.
Sala Baï program director Claude Colombié said it was particularly fitting to round off the series with the ‘Kimsan Twins’ as they are known, because Kimsan Sok was one of the original students in Sala Bai’s first intake 11 years ago.
“To us, this edition with the Kimsan Twins was not only special because it is the last one of the year, but also because Kimsan Sok is one of our Sala Baï former students, and we are very proud of her deserved success,” said Colombié.
“In our school we train 70 girls and 30 boys every year as girls are more vulnerable and have less access to education. And in a male dominated culinary industry Kimsan Sok is definitely a model for our female students.
“She just was one of them 11 years ago and thanks to her hard work, motivation and passion, she has reached the top level of the rising chefs in Cambodia. She proves to each of our students that everything is possible, even when coming from the poorest background.”
The Twins devised a four-course menu that fused Khmer and western cuisine, then spent a day and a half training up the Sala Baï students.
The $30 menu included an amuse bouche of stuffed clam, shrimp with spinach, caraway and coriander sauce, an appetiser of smoked duck breast with natural dry bamboo, a fish curry main course accompanied by wild rice sausage, and finally a tasting plate of rice-based Khmer desserts. The three savoury courses were paired with different fine wines.
“The menu was inspired by the finest Khmer cuisine, using exclusively local products,” said Colombié. “What was very interesting for our students was that they discovered some spices and ingredients that they were not used to cooking with or eating – even the local ones.
“It was also the aim of the Kimsan chefs to seek out the most unique ingredients from all over Cambodia in dishes that would please both local and Western palates.”
He added that the dinners have been a great success, attracting a variety of diners.
“They definitely have all been successful as we were always fully booked,” he said. “The events brought together many expatriates, plus local and foreign managers from the Siem Reap hospitality industry who will be the employers of our students when they graduate in two months, as well as a few tourists who heard about the event in town.”
Sala Baï was founded in 2002 by French NGO Agir Pour le Cambodge with the aim of providing hospitality training to 100 young disadvantaged Cambodians a year.
Plans are underway to construct a new, larger building which will house a Sala Baï campus, enabling the school to increase its intake to 150 students annually. Building is slated to start in September 2014, and the school will open next September.