Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - Madeleine Keck

Cam­bo­dian chef Martin Try on the re­cently opened Academy of Culi­nary Arts Cam­bo­dia

Af­ter spend­ing the past quar­ter of a cen­tury work­ing in renowned res­tau­rants across the US, Cam­bo­dian chef Martin Try em­barked on a new en­deav­our this year: teach­ing as­pir­ing chefs at the re­cently opened Academy of Culi­nary Arts Cam­bo­dia. Here, he dis­cusses his ca­reer in the kitchen and the fu­ture of the King­dom's hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try Prior to work­ing as a chef, you had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a ma­chin­ist. Why the rad­i­cal change?

I started late in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try; around 32 years old. For a long time, I couldn't find my pas­sion and found my­self work­ing nine to five as a ma­chin­ist among other odd jobs. It wasn't un­til a friend of mine said he needed help at his restau­rant, La Berg­erie in San Fran­cisco, that my love for cook­ing started to ap­pear. De­spite my ba­sic cook­ing knowl­edge, see­ing peo­ple smile and en­joy them­selves when they ate my food was ad­dic­tive, and I've been grow­ing my culi­nary skills ever since.

Why did you join the Academy of Culi­nary Arts Cam­bo­dia?

For the past five years I have had the dream of re­turn­ing from the United States to teach and give back to my home coun­try. Join­ing the Academy of Culi­nary Arts has given me the op­por­tu­nity to re­ally make a dif­fer­ence to the un­skilled youth of Cam­bo­dia by pro­vid­ing hos­pi­tal­ity train­ing and shar­ing my skills and knowl­edge in Euro­pean culi­nary stan­dards. I am so thrilled to be able to mo­ti­vate the next gen­er­a­tion of Cam­bo­dian chefs.

In the past cou­ple of decades, what have been the main changes in Cam­bo­dia’s hos­pi­tal­ity and culi­nary scene?

With the hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism sec­tor so closely linked, hos­pi­tal­ity, like other in­dus­tries, has seen sig­nif­i­cant growth thanks to the surge of tourists vis­it­ing the coun­try. This in turn has pro­duced higher culi­nary stan­dards in ho­tels and res­tau­rants. The at­trac­tive­ness of a ca­reer as a chef in Cam­bo­dia has cer­tainly changed too. I'm con­stantly sur­prised by the ab­so­lute en­thu­si­asm of stu­dents at the academy who are so pas­sion­ate about re­ceiv­ing high stan­dards of train­ing, as many of them want to own their own res­tau­rants. You can see it in their faces and their eyes that they are ea­ger to learn, which cer­tainly makes my job a whole lot eas­ier.

What ad­vice would you of­fer to peo­ple who want to know how to turn their love of food into a ca­reer?

The drive to ded­i­cate hours and hours to im­prov­ing your culi­nary skill set and hav­ing a hard work ethic is a real as­set in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. Most im­por­tantly, as in any in­dus­try, one needs to cham­pion re­silience and dis­ci­pline. Noth­ing comes eas­ily, and you have to con­stantly per­sist, sac­ri­fice and work hard in this in­dus­try to achieve what you want. You al­ways have to strive to treat your cus­tomers as if they are kings and queens or guests in your house. –

Martin Try shows a tech­nique to stu­dents at the Academy of Culi­nary Arts Cam­bo­dia

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