In December 2022 a new culinary complex, unique in SE Asia, opened outside Phnom Penh. Amid lush gardens near the Mekong, two antique wooden houses from the 1930s from Battambang and Siem Reap, have been dismantled, rebuilt and re-purposed facing one another across a natural pool.
There are three luxury bedrooms in Siem Reap House to host overnight guests. In Battambang House, furnished with Cambodian antiques, parties ranging from 2 to 25 can book a delicious five-course meal paired with tropical cocktails. Traditional Khmer music comes from an ensemble artfully suspended above the pool. Below the houses are ample spaces for workshops, cooking classes, team building or meetings.
At this lovely new facility, Chef Nak’s five-course meal has already been rated by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the 14 finest dining experiences in the world.
In addition to hosting overnight guests and five-course meals, Chef Nak conducts half-day cooking classes that include shopping in the local open-air market and enjoying the meals guests help cook. In the future, Chef Nak plans to host periodic gatherings of chefs and others interested in the preservation and promotion of the traditional cuisine of Cambodia.
Chef Nak’s passion for Cambodian food and her commitment to its preservation, further development, and global promotion began as a girl when she absorbed her mother’s love of cooking. Then as a young adult, she went to work at Cambodian Living Arts in Phnom Penh and learned that during the Pol Pot genocide, when a third of all Cambodians died, up to 90% of the country’s artists had perished. Chef Nak realized that in her country, where many traditions are passed down orally from one generation to the next, Cambodia’s traditional culinary arts were in severe danger of disappearing entirely.
So, in 2017 Chef Nak founded a company dedicated to collecting, preserving, developing and promoting traditional Khmer Cuisine.
The company’s elements include private luxury home dining and cooking classes, cookbooks, consultancies to restaurants and NGOs (including UNICEF, WFP, FAO, GIZ, IDE and HBS), and the creation of media content. Her weekly videos have reached as many as seven million viewers. Her first cookbook was highly praised by reviewers on Amazon and the New York Times. Her second book, SAOY – Royal Cambodian Home Cuisine, will be available in January 2023.
Speaking of her newly opened Culinary Art Center, Chef Nak added “I want people who come to our place to take away a special memory of our home-cooked meals at our beautiful antique wooden houses, and to enjoy learning about our local culture and stories.”
Chef Nak’s vision is that Cambodian cuisine takes a place at the table of the world’s most admired cuisines.