These Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants serve up some of the most tantalising meals in the city – and they’re meals that make a difference. The money you spend contributes to training young Cambodians, helping to lift locals out of poverty.
Located in Cambodia’s northern riverside city that is the departure point for excursions to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Angkor Wat, these Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants offer superb food in atmospheric settings, with an added bonus: they’re meals that make a difference.
Dine at any of our picks of the best Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants below and you can be confident that you’re doing good when you travel. These superb eateries prepare disadvantaged young Cambodians for careers in hospitality and tourism by providing education, training and jobs.
Profits generated from your patronage are invested into the social enterprise or school, education and development of trainees, or are sent to the parent non-government organisation (NGO) to finance social welfare, community and family support projects. Has eating out ever felt so good? We don’t think so.
Siem Reap Hospitality Training Restaurants – Meals that Make a Difference
Most of the Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants below have been established as social enterprises by NGOs with a mission to educate and train disadvantaged young Cambodians in the art of hospitality, English and life skills, as well as assist trainees to find jobs in Siem Reap’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Some organisations send counsellors out on to the streets, into the community, and out to the villages to identify marginalized youths who may be at risk, are unemployed or underemployed, or simply in need of a leg-up, offering them opportunities and support to get ahead. Some rescue young people who are homeless or have been trafficked and help reintegrate them into society.
At the best Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants, the trainees – often identified as ‘students’ on their uniforms and teamed with instructors – develop on-the-job skills and experience, supported by a structured programme of learning and classes, practical work experience in hotels and restaurants, as well as career counselling and support. How good is that?
These are the most impressive of Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants that we recommend you experience when you’re in Cambodia.
The Best Siem Reap Hospitality Training Restaurants
Set across two traditional-style timber houses overlooking a leafy courtyard garden, Marum remains one of the best Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants, for its lovely setting as much for its pan-Asian culinary experiments and superb cocktails and drinks.
Made for sharing, dishes on the menu include contemporary pan-Asian ‘tapas’ (we love the roast duck and pumpkin croquettes with citrus hoisin sauce, and the BBQ pork ribs with apple and radish salad), modern Cambodian (try the delicious Crocodile burger with Sriracha mayonnaise) and more traditional favourites (such as a beef stir fry with red ants, lemongrass and chilli).
Launched by parent NGO Friends International, established in 1999, and operated by Siem Reap NGO Kaliyan Mith, which has supported marginalised youths and street children in Siem Reap since 2005 – and assisted 7,200 children, youth and caregivers in 2016 alone – Marum is one of the most successful of the Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants, serving as a role model for others.
Marum offers a structured programme of training in a sleek professional kitchen, similar to that of a good culinary school, only students can move through at their own pace. It’s part of the TREE Alliance of vocational training restaurants, so look out for other member restaurants in Cambodia (Romdeng in Phnom Penh; Sandan in Sihanoukville), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Ethiopia.
In these cooler winter months, book a table outside in the leafy courtyard or sink into a beanbag on the lawn. In the sultry monsoonal months you will want to dine in the air-conditioned interior with vibrant naïve art on the walls. Don’t miss the ‘Friends‘n’Stuff’ shop selling up-cycled, eco-friendly gifts made by the carers of the youths that go through the programme – an initiative that forms part of their holistic approach to pulling families out of poverty.
Wat Bo Road, opposite Wat Polanka, Siem Reap tree-alliance.org/our-restaurants/marum
Light, bright and breezy, Spoons, pictured above, is another of the best Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants. A training facility of the EGBOK (‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’) organisation, established in 2011, which has a school in the building behind the eatery that prepares underprivileged youths for hospitality jobs, Spoons was opened in 2016.
The stylish restaurant offers a concise Cambodian menu that takes a Western approach with appetisers, mains and desserts. While the appetisers of up-styled Cambodian street food favourites can easily be shared, the mains – creative takes on traditional dishes – are individually plated.
We recommend the appetisers, which include refined renditions of nom krok, savoury rice flour and coconut puddings with a dipping sauce of coconut, galangal and fermented radish; grilled beef skewers marinated in kroeung, with pickled green papaya and carrot; and fresh spring rolls of salad and stir-fried whitefish. Also order the herbaceous forest sausage with banana flower salad with tree ant dressing from the mains.
Wash it all down with inventive cocktails such as the Spoonatini (Sombai rice wine, vodka, Cointreau, lemongrass, lime, simple syrup, and aromatic bitters) and the EGBOK (Campari, basil, lime, palm sugar, and sparkling water).
We also love Spoons’ commitment to being green, beginning with the sustainable bamboo used in the cutting-edge architecture to the eco-friendly products, including placemats and cushions by Scrap, woven from discarded remnants from local factory, Pactics; menus printed on banana tree paper by Kumae, made from unused bits of banana trees; and biodegradable straws and packaging. Non-compostable food waste goes to local farmers for animal feed, used cooking oil is donated to Naga Earth to be converted into biofuels and soap, and plastic is sent to Rehash Trash for recycling into knitted products.
At the time of writing, 595 students had completed EGBOK’s introduction to hospitality programme, 203 students had graduated from the training and internship programme, and 86 companies employed EGBOK alumni, including Siem Reap’s finest hotels, restaurant and spas, such as Amansara, Raffles, Park Hyatt, Le Méridien, and Sofitel.
Wat Damnak area, Siem Reap. egbokmission.org/spoons-cafe
Started in 2002 by French NGO Agir Pour le Cambodge, the Sala Baï Hotel and Restaurant School may be one of the city’s oldest, but the airy eatery at its beautiful new training institution, remains one of the best Siem Reap hospitality training restaurants.
Sala Baï was established to fight poverty and human trafficking through the education and training of underprivileged youths with priority given to women – 70% of places are offered to girls – as they’re more vulnerable and have less access to education than boys. An average of 100 students are educated for free each year, which increased to 150 in 2018, and more than 1,500 students have so far graduated and secured hospitality jobs in 15 years of operation.
While the large two-storey school with its numerous class rooms is impressive, the focus is on hands-on, real world experience in restaurant front of house, cooking, hotel front office, housekeeping, and beauty therapy, with the on-site restaurant and hotel fully staffed and all meals prepared by students.
The restaurant is different to Marum and Spoons in that the hotel is firmly focused on equipping students to work in five-star hotels, with the short menu offering everything from a Caesar salad, cheese burger and club sandwich to Italian pastas, Asian favourites (from nasi goring to Hong Kong-style beef) and elegant dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in a French fine dining restaurant, such as Tonle Sap bar fish fillet on a bed of croquette potatoes and sautéed seasonal vegetables. The menu changes every few weeks and a typical US$12 lunch spend pays for a day’s training for one student.
As the restaurant is part of the school and fully staffed by students it’s only open for breakfast (7-9am daily) and lunch (12-2pm Monday to Friday) and is closed evenings, weekends (breakfast excluded) and public holidays. The hotel, which has six lovely rooms, is only open from mid-October until mid-July and closes for two weeks during Khmer New Year in April. Click through to make reservations with our accommodation partner booking.com.
Tonle Sap Road, 1.7kms from Pub Street, Siem Reap. www.salabai.com