Meaningful meals at Cambodia’s Romdeng restaurant
Sitting down for a delicious dinner of local and regional specialities is one of the highlights of a holiday – and especially so in Southeast Asia, where there are so many fantastic dishes to sample. What could make it even better? Knowing that the restaurant is helping to provide valuable training to vulnerable young people in the local community.
That’s exactly what happens at Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh, where we dine during our ‘Images of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos’ tour.
Set in a beautiful colonial building in the heart of Cambodia’s capital, Romdeng is staffed by former street children, now in training for careers in catering and hospitality. Run by local charitable organisation Mith Samlanh (which translates as ‘Friends’), all profits from the restaurant are put back into projects run by the charity, which provides food, shelter, medical care, training and educational facilities for more than 1,800 vulnerable or abandoned children.
James Duquette, our partner in Southeast Asia, explains why Romdeng restaurant is such a great addition to the itinerary:
“As part of our responsible travel programme, we look for social enterprises which have a charitable or ‘give back’ mission alongside their business operation. We need to have meals regardless, so why don’t we maximise the value by promoting a good cause at the same time? It’s a win for them, and a win for us, and a win for customers as they can feel the positive contribution that their trip is having on the local community.”
On the menu at Romdeng is an array of Cambodian treats, from creative reinterpretations of classic dishes to almost-forgotten recipes from rural provinces. Wooden carvings, tables, chairs and lights are all handmade in Cambodia, while silk cushions and wall paintings have been produced by the children and young adults during art classes and vocational sewing courses.
Our product manager for Southeast Asia, Cassie Stickland, enjoyed a meal at Romdeng while she was in Cambodia. “The food was delicious and the service professional with a personal touch,” she comments. “Knowing that we were getting a great meal and supporting a worthy cause just made the whole experience even more enjoyable.”
Tour manager Ron Disney agrees: “Our visits to Romdeng are always a highlight for our customers, who appreciate why Titan supports these projects. It really does add to the overhaul tour experience.”
Students at the restaurant train in areas such as cooking and front-of-house service. “I always try and ask the chef of the day to come out to meet us and explain the training given to their young recruits,” says Ron. “After two to three years, many go on to work at high-quality hotels and restaurants. Romdeng gives them greater opportunities and helps them to build a full-time career.”
Cassie’s visit coincided with an examination day for the students. “Whilst dining we could see them preparing to take their practical hospitality exams, so there was a buzz of excitement in the air!”
Incorporating social and community enterprises like Romdeng into our tours is just one way we’re working together to make our holidays as sustainable as possible. For more information on community initiatives, wildlife protection and conservation projects, take a look at the BE Better page on our website.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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