There are a small number of people who helped me greatly to start the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia. They are very unique friends who took in their hearts my vision, the showed their commitment by contributing their time and skills to lay the foundation and the stepping stones of what is today the Academy. Without their help and their strong encouragement, I would not have been able to come so far.
Today, I would like to remember Edwin Bucher, who started his career as hotelier with Intercontinental and sadly, he recently passed away. I first met Edwin while he was the General Manager of Intercontinental Hotel here in Phnom Penh. As a fellow Swiss, he invited me to the Christmas tree lighting event at the hotel. Edwin was a tall and quiet man, who was very kind and friendly. I saw him at various occasions whilst visiting the hotel over the years and as such our comradery and friendship began. I can vividly remember a touching moment after I invited him to the opening of one of our social enterprises, the soya milk factory. Hundreds and hundreds of people came, yet only one person wrote to me, Edwin. He took the time to share his thoughts about my speech, which oddly enough to me, he found most interesting. Later on as the years progressed, he retired to Australia with his wife Jeannette. I wrote asking if he was willing to consider coming back to Cambodia to help me design the Academy, as I was in great need of someone to help transform my concept into reality. He replied very graciously and shared his strong support of the concept of having a training programme in Cambodia, since he knew professionally during his time in Cambodia the lack of trained professional cooks. Soon after, in 2012, Edwin returned to Cambodia as a volunteer. Edwin impressed me from the very beginning, his ability to articulate well the needs of the Academy – not to mention his analytical skills of marking on an excel sheet how many dishes, little spoons, big spoons, uniforms, pots and pans with dimension were needed. His great attention to detail was impressive. I remember telling him, “Edwin, it’s just us in the office, you don’t need to wear suit and tie to come to work”. Yet, he insisted and asked to be allowed to be dressed as such because it was his discipline, professionalism and style throughout his career. During this time, we talked about many things. For instance, he told me how he started to be a chef the year I was born! Edwin also taught me how to make the Wellington Fillet – which is a classic favorite of mine, and gave me lots of precious insight into the industry I was entering into. To Edwin, it mattered a lot to be punctual, well organized, dedicated and passionate.
As the years passed, I was able to see Edwin in Sydney, while I was visiting our daughter there. He would drive a few hours to be able to come to my daughter’s place just to catch up. Cambodia being the transient place that it is, means that when people leave, more than likely they don’t stay in touch – but this wasn’t the case with Edwin. In fact, he would go the extra mile to ensure we kept in touch. Especially, after we lost our daughter in 2013, it really touched my wife and I that Edwin and his wife Jeanette came to visit us in Sydney. During the last year, Edwin remained steadfast in his commitment to staying in touch, despite the fact that he could no longer move as used to. But we still managed to talk over the phone and he was very happy and thrilled to hear the updates and the progress of the academy. Edwin had been a key player and laid the very important stepping stones for the Academy. It would go without saying that without him we would not be here today. We continue to be extremely grateful to Edwin. In his last e-mail to us – which he never was able to finish – he thanked me for the updates of the school. Jeannette was very kind to send us the first sentence of the email to us which he never had the chance to finish. A fine and gracious friend has now gone but his actions and words have remained with us. Rest in peace dear friend.