Thalias Hospitality

The Timeless Craft of Bread and Baking

Bread. It’s something most of us take for granted, yet it holds an incredible history, rich with tradition and innovation. From the simple flatbreads of our ancestors to the artisanal loaves of today, bread has been a staple in our lives, carrying with it stories, cultures, and memories. Let’s take a journey through the evolution of bread and discover the masters who have perfected this craft, while also highlighting how Khéma and Go Bakery continue this delicious tradition. A Slice of History Bread-making is an ancient art. Imagine the scene: thousands of years ago, a prehistoric family gathered around a fire, baking the first flatbreads with wild grains. These early bakers likely stumbled upon the magic of fermentation by accident. Fast forward to ancient Egypt, where someone left their dough out a little too long, only to find that the natural yeasts in the air had transformed it into a light, airy loaf. This discovery changed everything. Bread had leavened, and the possibilities were endless. The Medieval Bread Renaissance Jump ahead to the Middle Ages, and bread had firmly established itself as a dietary staple across Europe. Bakers began experimenting with different grains, and innovations in milling meant that flour production became more efficient. Picture bustling medieval towns with bakers’ guilds, each vying to produce the best bread. Rye and barley breads were common, and the aroma of freshly baked loaves wafted through the streets. Refined and Elegant: The Renaissance Period The Renaissance brought refinement to many arts, including baking. Bakers began to use more refined wheat flour, producing the white bread that became a status symbol among the elite. Imagine the elegant banquets where beautifully crafted loaves adorned the tables, each piece a testament to the baker’s skill and artistry. Industrial Changes and Modern Revival The Industrial Revolution brought about both progress and challenges for bread. Mass production made bread more accessible, but often at the cost of quality. Thankfully, artisanal bakers preserved traditional methods, ensuring the craft did not disappear. Today, we see a beautiful revival of artisanal bread-making, where quality and tradition are celebrated. Modern Masters of Bread Let’s talk about some modern bread legends. Lionel Poilâne, a name synonymous with Parisian bread, revolutionized the way we think about sourdough. His rustic, round loaves, baked in wood-fired ovens, are a sensory experience – the sight of the perfectly golden crust, the crackle as you slice into it, and the rich, tangy flavor that’s truly unforgettable. Then there’s Nancy Silverton, who introduced many Americans to the joys of artisanal bread through her La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. Richard Bertinet, with his charming French accent and infectious enthusiasm, has taught countless people the joys of baking through his books and courses. His approach is both scientific and heartfelt, ensuring that every loaf is a masterpiece. Khéma and Go Bakery: Continuing the Tradition At Khéma and Go Bakery, we are proud to carry on the rich tradition of bread-making. Our bakers, inspired by legends like Poilâne, Silverton, and Bertinet, are dedicated to crafting bread that is both delicious and nourishing. We use the finest ingredients, sourced locally whenever possible, and employ time-honored techniques to ensure every loaf is perfect. Walking into Khéma early morning, the first thing you’ll notice is the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread baking. It’s warm, comforting, and inviting. Our shelves are lined with a variety of loaves – from the classic baguette with its crisp, golden crust to hearty whole grain breads packed with flavor and nutrients. Each bite tells a story of craftsmanship and care. At Go Bakery store, we believe in innovation without compromising on quality. Our bakers are constantly experimenting, bringing new and exciting flavors to our customers. Whether it’s a unique blend of spices or a new twist on a traditional recipe, we strive to keep our offerings fresh and exciting. Join Us on a Bread Adventure Bread is more than just food – it’s a connection to our past, a celebration of artistry, and a source of nourishment and joy. At Khéma and Go Bakery, we invite you to experience this tradition with us. Come in, smell the fresh bread, taste the love and care in every bite, and be a part of our story. Whether you’re enjoying a meal at Khéma or taking home a loaf from Go Bakery, you’re not just eating bread – you’re savoring a piece of history, crafted with passion and dedication. Join us in celebrating the timeless craft of bread and baking, and discover the difference that quality and tradition make.      

Siem Reap & Gastronomy: Sothy Keo, ‘’The beautiful news from Khéma Angkor ‘’

The director of the Malis and Khéma establishments, Sothy Keo

Celebrating French and Cambodian gastronomy, attracting both local and international clientèle to the same establishment, and training young people in the restaurant trade: these are just some of the challenges successfully met by Khéma Angkor. Adorned with decorations reminiscent of the imminent New Year celebrations, the banks of the river have become one of the highlights of a city that has recently undergone a profound transformation. “What a difference compared to previous years! And it’s not just the city that has changed, but its people too. Faces are serene and smiling again, after the worries and uncertainties of the past”, confides Sothy Keo. The director of the Malis and Khéma establishments, located just a few hundred metres apart, shares this optimistic mood. A growing number of customers, an increasingly diverse clientele and the arrival of new products all point to a bright future for gourmets. 100% Cambodian cheese specialties “With the pandemic, we’ve all, at some level, had to question ourselves and face up to new situations. But sometimes a difficulty opens the door to opportunities. This is how we came to design a new range of cheeses of which we are particularly proud. Cheese is inevitable when it comes to French gastronomy. But when the Covid sanitary restrictions reduced imports, we had to find a solution to guarantee supplies. This coincided with an increase in Cambodian milk production. The result was Rousseau, Khémabert and Chanda, all made with local produce and matured in Cambodia. We were helped in this by master cheesemaker Nicolas Rousseau, who came to train our teams and to whom we wanted to pay tribute by naming our first product after him. Cheeses are not the only example of this change in habits: more and more of our charcuterie, especially our pâtés and dried meat varieties, are prepared directly at Khéma. Offering local products is as much a guarantee of quality as it is a demonstration of know-how, not to mention the environmental and economic impact,” says Sothy Kéo. She adds that these local products are totally adapted to Cambodian palates. “We have a long tradition here of preparing meat dishes. Pâtés and dry sausages have long been familiar to us, and are even renowned specialties in certain towns. So it’s hardly surprising that our products are so popular with our Cambodian customers. Satisfying a wide audience One of the special features of Khéma Angkor is that it attracts a varied and cosmopolitan clientèle, including residents, expatriates and tourists passing through. “We’re very proud of this, of having been able to create a place that is appreciated by all and that is not exclusive. This has always been one of our major concerns, and we’ve been rewarded for it. If French customers are curious about Cambodian gastronomy, the reverse is also true. French wine and cheese discovery sessions are very popular with our Cambodian clientèle, for whom these dishes and beverages have been relatively unknown until now. It’s interesting to see our local clientèle’s tastes evolve, to the point where we now have a large community of enlightened wine and cheese enthusiasts.” All-you-can-eat To showcase its specialities, the establishment organizes a whole series of promotional offers to ensure that it never runs out. The “all-you-can-eat” formulas, for example, are very popular, allowing diners to enjoy the full range of dishes and beverages on offer for a modest sum. “These formulas are attracting an ever-increasing number of customers, with something to suit everyone’s culinary tastes. From a simple café croissant to wine and cheese buffets, not to mention our signature dish or sausage varieties, from breakfast to afternoon tea and from afternoon tea to dinner, there’s always something to satisfy the most demanding and varied preferences. Nor should we forget to mention our pastries and macaroons, which are often offered for birthdays.” Offering ever more career opportunities Behind the counter, Pen Los greedily declines all the varieties of mini-pastries for a customer who won’t leave empty-handed. Finding these little cakes irresistible, she opted for an assortment ranging from Kouign Amann to opera. Like many of the 25 employees who make up the Khéma team, Pen Los completed an internship there, which later led to her being hired. ” We want to offer as many opportunities as possible to young people who are curious, motivated and talented. In Siem Reap, we are fortunate to have a number of top-quality hospitality schools. Whether it’s Sala Bai, Paul Dubrule, Bayon Pastry School or Feeding Dreams Cambodia, from which Pen Los originated, they all offer training in a variety of professions that have lost none of their appeal.” ” This year, eight trainees will be taking their first steps at Le Khéma, working in the dining room, the kitchen or as pastry assistants. We’re always surprised by the knowledge and dynamism of these students, who also learn a lot about French culture. After an internship with us, they’ve learned all about the galette des Rois and crêpes de la Chandeleur, grape varieties and food and wine pairings, cheeses and pastries, and so much more! It’s a real pleasure to see them blossom and acquire skills that are bound to be useful in their future careers. Of course, I invite all Cambodge Mag readers to come and visit us and enjoy our specialties.” Par Rémi Abad. French version here

Seize the Magic of Cambodia: An Unforgettable Two-Week Journey from Temples to Tropical Beaches

When it comes to exploring the enchanting landscapes of Southeast Asia, the Kingdom of Cambodia often takes the backseat. Yet, the truth couldn’t be more contrasting. This vibrant country, with its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural beauty, offers an unparalleled tourism experience, often underappreciated by many travelers. If you are seeking a new experience, filled with exploration and discovery, then a two-week trip to this captivating part of South East Asia promises an adventure beyond your wildest dreams. MUST TRY RESTAURANTS: At the end of each paragraph, you will find two different restaurants with varying cuisines which will be sure to please anyone’s tastebuds. Relish the Royal Splendor of Phnom Penh (Day 1-2) Kick start your Cambodian tour in the bustling capital city of Phnom Penh, affectionately known as the “Pearl of Asia”. This city, replete with a blend of Khmer and French influences, offers a unique amalgamation of tradition and modernity. Upon arriving, make it a point to visit the Royal Palace, a magnificent structure showcasing the epitome of Khmer and Buddhist architecture. Then, satiate your taste buds by trying out the local speciality: Amok, a delightful Cambodian curry cooked in banana leaves. For those with an adventurous palate, deep-fried tarantula makes for an intriguing option. The next day, delve into Cambodia’s chequered history by visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. These sites, bearing remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime, provide a stark reminder of the four-year genocide that took place under Pol Pot’s reign. Yi Sang riverside : Delicious Chinese restaurant, open for breakfast or lunch for some delicious homemade dumplings. A gorgeous view over the river is just a bonus, and it is right next to the royal palace. Night market experience : Snacking for Khmer street food and shopping in the evening. Fun for any family or group of Friends to feast and wander. Unlock the Mysteries of Siem Reap (Day 3-5) After experiencing the urban charm of Phnom Penh, head to Siem Reap – the gateway to the ruins of Angkor. Begin your exploration with a visit to the world-famous Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The awe-inspiring sunrise over the temple complex is an experience that will surely remain etched in your memory for years to come. On your second day, explore the lesser-known yet equally captivating temples of Bayon and Ta Prohm. While Bayon amazes with its intricate carvings and labyrinthine passageways, Ta Prohm, also known as the “Tomb Raider Temple”, enchants with its unique blend of nature and architecture, where trees intertwine with the ruins in a mesmerizing display of time’s relentless march. For nature lovers, a visit to Ton Le Sap Lake offers a chance to witness the unique lifestyle of the local people living in the middle of the lake. Despite the touristy nature of the boat tours, it’s an experience worth having. Malis Angkor : A must go for anyone looking to explore Cambodian flavours. With brilliant architecture, inspired from the great temples in Siem Reap, you will find yourself full of food and full of happiness. Khéma Angkor : If you are craving, or missing, a more western styled meal, then look no further than Khéma Angkor. Here you will find that they have a delicious breakfast or lunch offering sure to satiate any dish you miss from home. Immerse in the Quiet Charm of Battambang (Day 6-7) Next, travel to the quieter city of Battambang, a place where you can experience Cambodia’s charm at a slower pace. Start your day with a fun ride on the Bamboo Train, a unique and memorable experience. In the evening, make sure to visit the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus, a not-for-profit project supporting disadvantaged children. The talented young performers put on a show that is sure to leave you spellbound. Jaan Bai : A wonderful restaurant pioneering new Cambodian flavours, with it’s take on traditional dished fused with western techniques and ingenuity. The Lonely Tree Café : Another stop to add during your time in Battambang. Either for a nice break from touring or a filling lunch. Rejuvenate in the Coastal Bliss of Sihanoukville (Day 8-9) After the hustle and bustle of the cities and the historical explorations, it’s time to unwind on the serene beaches of Sihanoukville. Spend your days relaxing on the pristine white sands of Otres Beach, soaking in the tranquil ambiance and stunning sunsets. Golden Beach : One of a kind Khmer style seafood restaurant. If you visit Sihanoukville, do not miss this spot. Sandan : A more traditional style of khmer seafood is what you’ll find at Sandan. A new experience jam packed with all of Cambodia’s herbs, seafood and vegetables. Experience the Tropical Paradise of Koh Rong (Day 10-11) A short boat ride from Sihanoukville brings you to the tranquil oasis of Koh Rong. Spend your days here basking in the sun on the white sandy beaches, swimming in the clear waters, and marveling at the bioluminescence at night. The Big Easy : This is the perfect spot to satiate any craving at all. They have a menu featuring western and Khmer dishes, sure to satiate any craving. Discover the Natural and Gastronomic Delights of Kampot (Day 12-13) Your adventure continues in Kampot, a charming town known for its French colonial architecture and its world-renowned black pepper. Spend a day exploring the Bokor National Park and its Killing Cave, a chilling reminder of the country’s dark past. Next, visit a Kampot Pepper Farm to learn about the cultivation and processing of the world-famous Kampot pepper. Plantation : Eat on-site, a wonderful experience following your tour of the pepper farm. A selection of dishes that will best highlight why Kampot pepper is world renowned. Café espresso : A wide variety of dishes to choose from. Their menu is truly international but featuring heavily on the best vegetarian dishes from all around. If you’re craving some healthy meals, Café Espresso is the restaurant for you. Wrap Up Your Journey in Phnom … Read more

Spotlight: Khantei Sok, Your GM at Khéma La Poste

She’s a familiar face to many of you, and she has a great story to tell. [Adapted from an article in Cambodge Mag:éussir International Women’s Day gave us on an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the hundreds of women who all play essential roles within Thalias Hospitality Group and what it has become today. One of those, Khantei Sok, sat down with the editor of Cambodge Mag to talk about her own evolution. Born in Phnom Penh, Khantei grew up in a disruptive environment that did not encourage dreaming about one’s future, much less that she might one day become an Alumni Ambassador for Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, the NGO that gave her a head-start in life. But she did know that she had to commit to whatever she was doing, especially in her professional life. “When I was younger and studying, I didn’t really have any particular desire for my future, I just knew that I had to work hard, learn English and then get by,” she said. The hard work paid off. With brilliant results in hand, she was offered a place as a trainer for PSE’s training restaurants, Lotus Blanc, of which there were two at the time. There she taught the elements and techniques of catering for almost five years and then, in 2016, an irresistible opportunity to travel to Toulouse, France, for a training trip arose. “I really enjoyed the experience. I learned some French, maybe not enough to carry on a conversation, but enough to understand and respond to French-speaking clients during my work,” she said. Her experiences so far meant she knew she wanted to pursue a career in hospitality, and within that, to work for a large group. Topaz was her first choice. “I knew the Topaz restaurant and I wanted to work there. Alain Darc [Topaz’s consultant-chef] was a technical advisor at PSE and in 2017 he gave me the opportunity to join the team”. But after completing her training at Topaz and Khéma Pasteur, Khantei’s hard work and dedication meant she was ready for a challenge. “Today, I am the general manager of Khéma La Poste and I work directly with Lina Hak, our operations manager for the brand,” she said. Such responsibility is not always easy. Khantei is aware of the constraints of the restaurant business, but stresses that she has also learned the good things about it. “I like my job because I simply love this business. I love the contact with people, I love gastronomy, I’m quite a fan of French food and wine personally. “My favourite French dish would probably be coq au vin. I also like charcuterie a lot. At the beginning it was not spontaneous, I had to learn to taste this very European food”, she added. As for the constraints, she takes them with a smile, aware that she works in a profession where she has to adapt to the clientele and the number of people in the establishment. “I have hours that have to be adjusted to the restaurant’s activity. We have many customers, especially at the weekend, and I have to be available. That’s all there is to it.” In the mornings, she assists her team to ensure that everything is in place and smoothly running for breakfast, and then again for lunch and dinner. She runs a daily meeting to discuss the previous day’s operations, to look at what went well and what can be improved. In total, 48 employees work for this establishment. We asked if she thinks she’s a little young to be leading a team that includes long-time employees and older people? Not really, she says with a smile. “It’s true that I’m young to lead a big team, but there’s a very good spirit between us and it’s going pretty well,” she said. Finally, when asked about her future plans, Khantei answers unambiguously that she wants to continue her career with the Thalias group, a company that continues to grow and for which she says she is proud to work. With Covid-19, there has been a sharp drop in restaurant business and Khéma has not escaped the trend. Kanthei explained, “At first we saw a big drop in patronage due to fear of the virus. Then we put in place the safety measures that everyone now knows: temperature checks at the entrance, hand disinfection, table spacing. “And these precautions apply to customers as well as to restaurant employees and delivery staff. In the middle of May 2020, customers started to return. Even if the number of customers did not reach the level of the good old days, the restaurant was back to a very regular business. We have a lot of promotional products such as free-flow, which work very well. We communicate a lot about our promotions and this also encourages regulars to come back,” she said, adding that it helps that Khéma’s pastries and bread have the reputation of being the best in the capital. Outside of work, Khantei says she spends time with her mother, with whom she still lives, and also regularly visits her father, who lives in the provinces. In her spare time, she admits to having a soft spot for the music of Sinn Sisamouth, the Cambodian crooner of the 60s and 70s, and to enjoying watching local comedies. Travel? She has been lucky enough to travel to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, but mainly for business trips. “I love to travel, I had the opportunity to visit Paris and I found the city wonderful. On the other hand, I can’t see myself living anywhere else but in my native country,” concluded the young woman.

Bringing Back the Business Lunch!

Business is back in business in Cambodia, which means that the business lunch is back too. But with everyone still keeping an eye on budgets, that doesn’t mean that the kind of breakthroughs that business lunches inspire have to break the bank… Business is coming back to Cambodia, and that means one very important thing (as far as we’re concerned anyway): business Lunches are coming back too. At Topaz and Khéma, we’ve made it our business to make sure that you have everything you need to get through your agenda with colleagues, associates and clients in a refined and serious setting, without any fuss, delays, interference, or a digestion-inducing bill. A few years ago, it was declared that the days of the business lunch were over, though this had more to do with the tax laws of a particular country than the actual usefulness of a long-standing tradition. But the Business Lunch is more than just a tradition, because a carefully thought-out Business Lunch will always deliver so much more than what’s on the menu. Among clients, associates and colleagues, it’s an effective way of breaking down barriers, cementing relationships and finding common grounds that define the path for advancement. Something as simple as the change of context can help those attending to reframe problems or situations in their minds, and arrive at solutions or agreements they might not otherwise have done. It’s also a great way to show appreciation for your team’s achievements, strengthen the bonds between them, or to cheerfully welcome a new recruit. This is why the Business Lunch remains popular, despite what the naysayers say. That’s what naysayers do though. In Phnom Penh, Topaz is one of the city’s premier Business Lunch venues because we are able to offer a peerless combination of the highest levels of sophistication, quality and value. Our menu changes every month, and offers a two-course haute cuisine lunch, with drinks, starting at just $19 per person, while a three-course meal including drinks is only $27. It’s hard to argue with numbers like that. But that is not all. For a Business Lunch that combines fine-food standards and preparation with exceptional value and a more relaxed environment, then the Free-Flow Khéma Lunch is a “no-brainer”, as they say in the business world. The extensive Free-Flow Lunch menu changes every week and offers a delicious range of our favourite dishes and revolving specials for the extraordinary price of just $15 per person. And the Free-Flow means you never have to worry about negotiations that might be grinding on, or whether your morning’s work means you’ve worked up an appetite. We predict that the Business Lunch will never die, though its forms will change over the years. The three-hour long “Martini Lunches” of the past are certainly over. Today’s Business Lunch is now a more serious affair, but that’s no reason why it can’t still be useful, rewarding and, of course, delicious.

A Celebration of Camembert

“For the most part, I try to be healthy and eat good things, but if you give me a baguette and some Camembert, I’m gonna eat it.” Gwyneth Paltrow. While every day is Cheese Day as far as we’re concerned, it is nonetheless International Cheese Day this March 27, so we thought it would be a great time to talk about one of France’s most iconic, and, of course, most delicious cheeses, the mighty Camembert. It’s also one of France’s most easily recognised cheeses. With its distinctive talcum-white rind shot through with tawny hints of the deliciousness beneath. The squat disc shape helps to visually distinguish the Camembert from its older cousin, Brie, which is usually made as a larger wheel. Underneath that rind, you’ll find the softly melting butter-yellow cow’s milk cheese which they say is best enjoyed when it oozing around the outside but still slight firm in the centre so that you can enjoy the full range of flavours and textures, from slightly chalky to smooth, creamy velvet, this cheese has to offer. Unlike so many French cheeses, Camembert is a relative newcomer. While there is mention of a cheese named Camembert back in 1702, it is likely that it bore no resemblance to the cheese we see today. Instead, the modern version was most likely created around the time of the French Revolution when a local woman named Marie Harel offered shelter to a priest fleeing the Revolutionary loyalty oath. To pay her back, he taught her the cheesemaking technique used in his former parish in Brie, which Harel adapted to the local cheesemaking methods, and thus Camembert was born. Of course, no one knows any more if this story is actually true or not. The differences in techniques used for making Brie and Camembert can be tasted though. Brie is typically creamier with a higher fat content, and subtle flavours of fruits and mushrooms. Camembert, on the other hand, has a lower fat content with more distinct flavours of mushrooms, almonds, truffles and even roast lamb. As for pairing, given its origins a dry Normandy cider is always a delight on a hot day. If you prefer red wine, go for something light like a Beaujolais, or take a full-bodied, fruity white like a Chardonnay or sweet Chenin Blanc. At Khéma Deli outlets (at Khéma La Poste and Pasteur in Phnom Penh, and Khéma Angkor in Siem Reap), you’ll find the original Camembert produced by artisan cheesemakers in France, and you’ll also find our own version, Khémabert, made right here in Cambodia using fresh cows’ milk from a herd near Preah Vihear. We challenge you to try out this delicious cheese, made with French savoir faire and flavours direct from the earth of Cambodia.

We’re Flipping out for Chandeleur

To celebrate Chandelure this February 2, Khéma is offering a licence to indulge in one of France’s iconic culinary offerings, the heavenly Crêpe, with a delicious range of sweet and savoury fillings. You’ll find them on Khéma’s exceptional-value Free-Flow Business Lunch Menu for the whole week of Chandelure, so you’ll be able to try out a different flavour every day if you wanted. And even better than that, Khéma has prepared a dedicated Free-Flow Crêpe Menu for this coming weekend: a perfect accompaniment to any get-together with friends and family. The humble, delicious and eternally adaptable pancake must be one of the most universal of all food creations. Almost every culture has its own edition. Even cultures within cultures have their own variations, and so we have the pancake, blini, griddle cake and crêpe. Or perhaps you prefer a flapjack, drop scone, waffle or galette. Let’s not forget the boxty from Ireland where they make them with potatoes, of course — a genius move, frankly — or the Æbleskiver that looks like an apple in Denmark. Try saying that three times in a row after your third glass of wine. And that’s not even a fraction of what Europe has done with this simple confection of flour, eggs and milk, cream or water. But let’s look at Asia, where you’ll find bao bing, bánh xèo, and buchimgae. Do you like dosa, or dadar gulung, or perhaps you prefer an oyaki? The list goes on and would not be complete without Cambodia’s own banh chao of course. Pancakes are included among the first formally recorded recipes, appearing in Europe’s first extant written cookbook (Apicus), while records for similar creations can be traced all the way back to the fifth century BC. And how could there not be? The pancake’s simplicity is the key to its early adoption, and its adaptability and basic deliciousness have ensured its ongoing success. But there are easy nuances — such as extended resting times for the batter — that can lift this simplicity into a silky elegance that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. It can be as refined (think crêpes Suzettes) or as rustic as you want it to be, and we’re fairly certain you could eat a completely different version every single day of the year. And we would like to start a petition for the re-introduction of the 17th century British version that called for the addition of brandy into the batter mix. You’ll find the classic French version available all day at Khéma as part of our celebrations for Chandelure this February 2. So no matter who you are, where you’re from or how you usually like to enjoy your pancake, crêpe or banh chao, you’ll still find a hint of something that evokes a little bit of home.

Valentine’s Day ~ Love Bites…

As many as half of all couples are planning to do something special this Valentine’s Day. Most of them are going out for a romantic dinner (don’t forget to book your table at Topaz, Malis or Khéma now, before they fill up), but almost as many will give their loved one a gift of chocolates as an emblem of whatever emotions underpin their bond, be it fresh young love, or hard-earned affection, companionship, understanding, compassion and tenderness. Chocolate’s relationship with love and ritual goes all the way back to mankind’s first discovery of this delicious bean. Chocolate comes from cocoa tree which is known as ‘Theobroma cacao’, which is Greek for “food of the gods”. The people of Central America were the first to discover and cultivate cacao beans as long as 3500 years ago. Its ceremonial importance then was profound, and chocolate was given generously at banquets, used in ritual offerings to the gods, and to anoint newborn children on the forehead, face and fingers in a rite resembling baptism. In Europe, chocolate was first introduced as a medicine at the beginning of the 16th century, its arrival coinciding with the growth of the West Indian sugar trade which no doubt aided its popularity. About 150 years later, it finally arrived on England’s shores, where it was soon popularly mixed with milk. At this point, it was still almost entirely consumed as a beverage, which remained the case until the mid-1800s when the Cadbury brothers worked out a process for transforming cocoa butter into blocks of delicious melt-in-the-mouth chocolates that we have all come to adore. Chocolate’s association with love and Valentine’s Day might just be the product of good marketing — one of the Cadbury brothers, Richard, was savvy enough to start marketing his new product in heart-shaped boxes and his stroke of marketing genius coincided with the expansion of Valentine’s Day in the Britain and the US. But there is a lot of science behind it too. Chocolate is popular perceived as ‘comforting’ and also as an aphrodisiac. How much of this is actually true is debatable, but as delicious as it is, it certainly provokes feelings of pleasure, and perhaps awakens the mind to pleasure’s potentials. It also contains phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the human brain, responsible for the euphoric feelings associated with being in love. However, experiments to discover whether eating chocolate has a measurable effect on this aspect of body chemistry have proved inconclusive. But questions of marketing, science or history aside, we all love chocolate, and we especially love an opportunity to make those we love happy with a gift of pure pleasure. We have a beautiful range of delicious, luxurious and beautifully presented hand-made chocolates at Khéma. Made with love, for the one you love. Malis ❤️Love is your nature Surprise your Valentine with a romantic dinner under the stars and indulge in a charming 5-course gourmet dinner. Choose between the intimacy of the garden dining or the cosy room dining area.​ Malis menu Khéma ❤️Feel the love No matter how you say it, Valentine’s Day is the time to let loved ones know just how much they matter. Whether you are a couple madly in love, a family looking for a delicious meal, or a group of friends, we have you covered with an amazing French menu made with love.​ Khéma menu Topaz ❤️ Taste the love We’re bringing all the love to Topaz to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Taste your love around a romantic dinner planned for you. We have created a divine menu, crafted intricately and filled with delicious dishes that are sure to amplify the love for those closest to your heart. Topaz menu

Galette des Rois: Your Chance to Reign and Shine

Galette des Rois available at Khéma

A delicious combination of puff pastry and almond cream, the Galette des Rois (“King Cake”) occupies a special place in French hearts, and bellies. Christmas is one of those feasts that likes to linger in the palate, much like an excellent wine does. And so while all the major festivities are done and dusted for another year, there is still one thing to look forward to: Epiphany and the Galettes des Rois with which the French, and others, love to celebrate this moment in the Christian calendar. A delicious combination of puff pastry and almond cream, the Galette des Rois (“King Cake”) occupies a special place in French hearts, and bellies. And, of course, you’ll find our favourite ones freshly prepared by our baking team at Khéma. And don’t forget: whoever gets the slice with the ‘bean’ is crowned King (or Queen) for the rest of the day. Epiphany is a feast day that marks the end of the “12 Days of Christmas” which are in fact a whole series of Christian feast days intended to celebrate saints who are recognised as “Companions of Christ” because their lives bore unique witness to Jesus Christ. But while the religious significance has faded, January 6th still remains a day of celebration among family and friends for many in France. And celebrating it without a Galette des Rois would be like celebrating Christmas without a Christmas Day meal. Epiphany though is not about the saints, but about the Three Wise Men (Magi) who came to find Jesus following his birth in Bethlehem. Over time, these Wise Men were recast as ‘kings’, and thus the origins for a ‘king cake’ were laid. But the origins for this special cake and the traditions that surround it go back even further than Christianity and can be traced back to Roman times when and the festival of Saturnalia when, for a single day of the year, slaves became masters and masters became slaves (a temporary inversion of the social order that no doubt helped to subdue stirrings for a more permanent edition). In the Roman tradition, a king or queen for the day was determined by hiding a bean inside a cake. For non-French speakers who nonetheless enjoy French food and culture, the word ‘galette’ can be a bit of a confusing one as it refers to a wide variety of things including a flat pastry, savoury buckwheat crepes, shortbread biscuits (especially those made famous in Pont Aven in Brittany), and a preparation of thinly sliced potatoes browned on both sides in a frying pan. And there are many more iterations too. It helps to think of it as a word that means good things are going to come. And that’s definitely true of a Galette des Rois. Especially the ones you’ll find at Khéma all through this January.

Le Rousseau — Simple, but Divine

Two years ago, Khéma launched the first of its own range of branded artisan cheeses, Le Rousseau, a simple Fromage Frais named in honour of dairy consultant Nicolas Rousseau who spent months training our team in the ancient arts of cheesemaking. Fromage Frais, or fresh cheese, is probably one of the earliest forms of cheese developed by man, and it wasn’t just an important source of nutrition. References to it as a vehicle for letting the gods know how much they were revered can be found in the Hindu Vedas, the Old Testament of the Bible, and in early Buddhist and Jainist texts. Soft, thick, creamy and lightly tangy, Fromage Frais is one of the simplest cheeses to make and one of the easiest to start out with for those who may find the prospect of tucking into an aromatically lurid blue or leaky brie a little off-putting. It makes a delicious treat in its simplest form, smeared on a slice of baguette perhaps with a drizzle of honey, but is also highly adaptable for use in salads, or topped on grills and baked potatoes, and especially in desserts. For those watching their figures, the fact that it’s not ripened means it’s generally lower in fat than other cheeses and can be used as a low-fat, low-calorie alternative for cream in dishes such as Beef Stroganoff without sacrificing depth of flavour. The earliest evidence for cheesemaking can be traced back to the period between 7000 and 6500 BCE. By then, humans had long kept dairy animals, first goats and sheep and eventually the less gregarious cow, though mainly as a source of meat. However, the discovery at this time of pyrotechnology led to the creation of pottery which in turn led to huge advances in human food preparation because finally it could be stored, processed and transported without falling prey to the elements (we’re thinking ants!). This revolution led directly to the earliest forms of cheese, simple curds, separated and strained, i.e. a Fromage Frais, just like Le Rousseau. But simple should never be mistaken for unworthy. The Hindu Vedas were written over many centuries by a pastoral people whose lives were deeply rooted in cattle rearing. The texts reveal the pivotal and venerated role that dairy foods played in ancient India where they were valued not only as an integral part of the diet, but also for their role as offerings to the gods in religious observances. Later on, Buddhist and Jainist texts affirmed the importance of dairy products, including curds and fresh cheese, in the Indian diet. But this central place was not to hold, perhaps due to environmental factors, perhaps also due to the increasingly elevated status of the cow, and emerging prohibitions on animal slaughter. It seems clear too that the kinds of smelly, mouldy, even maggot-infested, cheeses—whose ripening may be compared to a sort of rotting—that were later favoured in Europe would have confounded a culture increasingly rooted in purity and vegetarianism. Early Christians also centred fresh cheese as a form of offering to the gods. The first reference to cheese in the Bible comes in Genesis when Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is subjected to a surprise visit from God and two of his angels that would put anyone’s day into a spin. Whipping up a meal that was fitting for such august company, Abraham put together a table that included freshly baked bread, veal, fresh cheese and milk. But even a harried Abraham was not the first of his time or place to offer fresh cheese to his god. Cheese and butter had been an integral part of religious practice and offering in Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years. So the next time you see a Le Rousseau or other Fromage Frais, do not think ‘too simple for my tastes’. Instead think “well, if it’s good enough for the gods…” That is the beauty of simplicity. One delicious way of serving up Fromage Frais is a Cervelle de Canut, a rich and creamy dip whose origins lie in Lyon. It may be simple, but the results are divine, making it a perfect offering for guests, be they gods or otherwise. Cervelle de Canut (Serves 6-8) 200g Fromage Frais 20g Finely chopped shallot 10g Finely snipped chives 1tsp Finely chopped garlic 15g Finely chopped parsley 10g Strong Dijon mustard 15ml Red wine vinegar 25g Olive oil 100g Whipping cream, lightly whipped Sea salt and freshly ground pepper Put the fromage frais into a bowl and mix in the shallot, chives, garlic and parsley. Add the mustard, wine vinegar and olive oil and mix again until the texture is uniform. Finally, stir in the lightly whipped cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with: thin slices of baguette, lightly toasted, or crostini Grissini breadsticks and raw cucumber, celery and carrot batons. Credit for this recipe goes to the legendary Michel Roux, and his chef Stéphane Colliet.