Our final night in Siem Reap was spent at Spoons. We took a $3.00 tuk tuk and were delivered to a bamboo tree house-like building. It’s open air and the bamboo interior has just enough tables to make this place intimate but not overcrowded.
Spoons is so much more than a restaurant. Spoons is run by EGBOK, a non-profit fighting to break the cycle of poverty in Cambodia.
After visiting Cambodia, Cornell University hospitality grad, Ben Justus, asked himself how a developing country like Cambodia could utilize it’s rapidly growing hospitality industry to alleviate poverty in local communities.
Some Quick Stats via EGBOK’s website:
Only 4% of Cambodians complete high school.
$1.25/day is the average wage for 18% of Cambodians.
52% of Cambodians are 25 years old or younger – this is due to 1.7 million people dying between 1975-1979, when the country was controlled by the Khmer Rouge Regime.
Ben Justus founded EGBOK in 2009. The program is three-phase. First, students get an introductory course in hospitality. After that, they go into a year-long internship where they get training and an internship with hospitality partners. 45% of students or alumni are orphans or only have a single parent who is unable to support them. Students live in EGBOK Living Centers where they take courses and have access to an array of social services. At the end of the program, EGBOK helps students apply for hospitality jobs.
When dining at Spoons, the staff is entirely made of EGBOK students. The wait staff was professional and I wouldn’t have known they were students if I hadn’t read about the restaurant before we booked the reservation.
Not only was our meal a delicious experience, but our bill went directly to serve both the students and the organization. All the money of Spoons goes to EGBOK.
This was our meal at Spoons!
Sombai rice wine, vodka, Cointreau, lemongrass, lime, simple syrup, aromatic bitters
Scotch whisky, local tomato, mint, lime, orange, sweet and dry vermouth, pandan leaf syrup, aromatic bitters
Spring onion and coconut cream crispy dumpling, coconut dipping sauce,
galangal, fermented radish.
Fresh Spring Roll
Local vegetables, stir-fried whitefish, Khmer red chili and sesame seed dipping sauce.
My entree was:
Beef, pork, mung bean, holy mint, garlic and galangal sausage, banana flower salad, tree ant dressing
Paul’s entree was the
Traditional Khmer gravy with local river fish, garlic, shallots, tamarind, prohok, chili, coconut cream, local vegetables, roasted boneless chicken leg, steamed rice
Coconut and Banana Three Milk Cake – This reminded me of a cross between a cheesecake and a banana cream pie.
My experience at EGBOK made me wonder how this concept could be used in the States. In what ways could we break the cycle of poverty through an educational/vocational program? Specifically in tourism heavy places that still experience poverty.