International Women’s Day at a hospitality training school in Siem Reap

I spent the whole morning I passed with Andrée Rosier trying to discern a hint of the madness and obsession that must push one to seek such perfection as can satisfy the judges for the award of Une des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, and found not even the slightest scent of it. She was warm, gentle, open and deeply interested in the workings of Sala Baï, a hospitality training school in Siem Reap, of which she is now a patron, that takes in 100 students a year and provides them all with formal and vocational training.

Phnom Penh Post, March 16, 2012

Female French chef cooks up a storm

Andree Rosier and Students at Sala Bai

Andree Rosier and Students at Sala Bai

On International Women’s Day, Siem Reap hospitality school Sala Baï celebrated by welcoming one of France’s premier chefs, and new patron of the school.

Andrée Rosier, 34, is the first female chef to win the coveted award of Un des Meilleur Ouvriers de France (“one of the best workers of France”), and is a co-owner with her husband of two Michelin starred restaurants, Les Rosiers in France and Eguzkilore in Tokyo.

The young chef spent the Thursday morning visiting the school, and hopes that her own example can serve as an inspiration and motivation for the students who are half-way through the year’s curriculum, especially the girls.

“I hope that I can inspire and motivate them to see that with hard work you can go so far,” she said. “Working in hospitality is a vocation, a calling of passion, and it’s so rewarding to create something that people love whether it is good food or good service.”

“It’s a real honour to receive Andrée here,” said Jean Paul Dethomas, Sala Baï’s director.“At Sala Baï, where 70 per cent of our intake is girls, it’s extraordinary for the students to meet someone so well-known and so successful, and moreover that she is a woman. This is very important.”

After a tour of the school, including the successful restaurant and guestrooms that are an integral part of the training program, Rosier stepped into the kitchens where preparations for that day’s lunch shift were already underway. Initially hoping to be able to join in, Rosier instead stepped back and watched as the trainees went about their work.

“I’m impressed at how assured they are,” Rosier said. “It’s still so early in their professional training, yet they already know what to do, and seem very confident as they go about their duties.”

Rosier was not off the cooking hook though as she, together with some of Sala Baï’s students and graduates, was looking forward to preparing a fundraising meal at the Heritage Suites Hotel on Saturday March 10.

“My cooking style is very simple and accessible, where the taste of every ingredient counts,” said Rosier. “My husband and I developed this menu especially for Saturday, and we wanted to keep our own style while integrating inspirations from the region.”

On the menu were pan-fried scallops with a peanut crust and cauliflower and curry cream, followed by red tuna in a lime and herb marinade, with spicy tomato caramel, Spanish ham and romaine salad, then Australian beef tenderloin with a pinot noir and orange Provençal.

Speaking the day after the dinner, which was attended by 52 people and raised around $2,300 for the organisation, Jean-Paul Dethomas sighed, “It was magnificent.”

Magnus Olovsson, general manager of Heritage Suites Hotel, said the feedback from the evening had been phenomenal. “Andrée is a wonderful chef and it was an incredibly touching evening,” he said.

In a second International Women’s Day coup for the school, communications director Emmanuelle Dethomas was in Singapore for a screening of the short film Khatna’s Journey, at a function hosted by Unifem. The film follows the story of Khatna from her home in the Tonle Sap lake floating villages, through her training at Sala Baï, and on to a secure future after landing a job as receptionist at the Heritage Suites Hotel.

The film screening is in advance of an award that Unifem will make to the organisation later in the year in recognition of its work for the advancement of women.

PPP Female French chef cooks up a storm 16 March 2012

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