Of the three new scholarship students who started their journeys at the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodian in September, two are young women. According to them, in traditional Khmer culture women cook at home, but professional kitchens are generally the exclusive realm of male chefs. Though that’s true for now, they agree that change is in the air in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Introducing ACAC’s New Scholarship Students
Before moving to Phnom Penh with her family at age 10, 18-year-old Chin lived in rural Kandal Province. Growing up she envisioned herself working in the country’s budding business sector, and when she changed course to pursue the culinary arts her parents weren’t convinced it was the best option. Now they support her wholeheartedly, and just a few months into her training Chin is already focused on her goal of becoming a world-class pastry chef.
At 29, Sang is the oldest of the new scholarship students, and until the age of four she lived in a poverty-stricken province near Vietnam. Growing up her family was discriminated against for speaking Vietnamese, and many neighbors wouldn’t allow their children play with her. Despite her lonely childhood, Sang blossomed into an outgoing young woman brimming with energy and optimism, and the possibilities her future holds are now endless.
After his parents died, five-year-old Dos spent much of his childhood in an orphanage in distant Kampong Chhnang Province. When he moved to Phnom Penh in 2019 at the age of 20, he’d only had a handful of interactions with foreigners, and his inability to speak English was a constant source of concern. Though embarking on a new career path with foreign instructors might be too stressful an endeavor for some, Dos isn’t about to let those obstacles interfere with his dreams of becoming a chef and restaurant owner.
An unwavering commitment to continuing education is a one of the many similarities that Chin, Sang, and Dos share. Each plans on studying abroad after graduating from ACAC, and they agree that Switzerland, Japan, and Dubai are among the most alluring destinations.
If ACAC’s three new scholarship students are representative of young Cambodians in general, it’s also likely that serving others will be key components in both their personal and professional lives. When asked how they see themselves helping those less fortunate in the future, they replied unanimously that their passion for food would definitely take center stage.
As for the challenges they’ve faced in their first few months, the students agree that the language barrier, fast-paced environment, and constant noise in the kitchen were some of the biggest. They were also quick to praise their instructors for their patience, and ACAC and its donors for providing them with truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.