Thalias Hospitality

Khéma Pasteur & Chan Sopheak: “Every day, each customer, a new and beautiful story”

Former student at the NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, Chan Sopheak reminds us that the road to success can sometimes be long and full of pitfalls, but that “nothing is impossible”. Born into a large, modest family, the 34-year-old Cambodian is now the manager of the Khéma Pasteur restaurant in Phnom Penh. For him, his job is a real passion. In his spare time, Sopheak researches the web to acquire new notions about menu creation and design in general. He’s a true enthusiast! “During my studies, I used to walk around the city and see what was going on in restaurants. “I didn’t necessarily know the jobs of the people who worked there, but I loved admiring the way they expressed themselves to the customers and the art of serving,” he shares with a smile. On his days off, when he’s not playing football with his former classmates, he gets on his bike and ventures out on the trails of Oudong mountain or along the roads of Kirirom.  A challenging but rewarding childhood  Chan Sopheak’s childhood was a challenging one, but it also taught him many valuable lessons. He worked as a ragpicker with his six brothers and sister on the site of the old landfill site in the Steung Meanchey district, where he lived with his whole family. Every day, he would fill his bag with rubbish to collect a few thousand riels, which he used to provide for his family.  In 2000, I was working on the landfill and I was lucky enough to meet Papi and Mamie, the founders of the Association pour un sourire d’enfant (PSE).  “When the landfill was closed by the authorities in 2009, we were still collecting waste, but this time in the capital, near the Wat Phnom roundabout. I remember the day I was sitting on a bench with my brother and saw a Cambodian man conversing in English with some foreigners, opposite the Sunway hotel. It was incredible! I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but I was in awe of his incredible ability to communicate in a foreign language!”  Back in the classroom, the teachers really helped me to learn the language, which has helped me a lot on my way to my current job,” he recounts with a smile. The young Cambodian studied at PSE for 12 years and chose the tourism and catering school route, which was the perfect fit for him. Sopheak had the incredible opportunity to complete several work placements at the Lotus Blanc, the NGO’s former training restaurant. The Khéma trigger    After graduating, Sopheak landed two jobs. He was thrilled to be working at Samba Brazilian Steak House during the day and at T-Bone Steak Box in the evening. For him, it was an incredible experience that allowed him to learn new skills thanks to the interaction with staff from different backgrounds.  In June 2014, he left to join the Thalias Group, where he took up the position of supervisor at the former Khéma Bassac, then located at Aeon Mall I. His role was to control service operations and daily tasks essential to the smooth running of the establishment, which was a great opportunity for him. He was also in charge of managing the wine stock, which was a real highlight of the role. Not long after that, he joined Khéma Rue Pasteur as an assistant. He was really inspired by the work and exemplary attitude of Lina Hak, who was in charge of Khéma at the time. He wanted to become a manager of the restaurant, so he was really excited to be able to learn from her.   “At the beginning, I was constantly taking notes to improve communication with the various departments and, of course, with the customers. Sopheak spent six incredible years rising through the ranks before taking up the position of restaurant manager. He says he is passionate about his work and never gets bored. “Thalias offers both internal and external training, which is great because it means I can develop my skills in different ways.’ There’s no such thing as routine! Every day I discover new aspects of the business, I deal with problems that are sometimes unexpected, so I’m constantly learning new skills!”  Going the extra mile  Sopheak is full of optimism about the future, despite having faced a few challenges along the way. He says, “During my career, I’ve met a lot of very different people and we don’t necessarily think in the same way, but that’s what makes life interesting!“ So you get to adapt to everyone and find a way of communicating without it affecting your work or your relationships – how cool is that? “Today, I absolutely love interacting with the people around me! That’s why I chose this sector. When I see all these people in the establishment, employees and customers, I feel so happy! ”.   Gastronomy is a rigorous discipline that is not always easy to master, and Sopheak is embracing the challenge: “When Khéma opened on Rue Pasteur, there were a lot of foreigners coming to eat. So we decided to change our menu to attract more Cambodians and give them the opportunity to discover French products such as cheeses, charcuterie and wines. Now, 80% of our clientèle are Cambodians, so our menu has evolved really well, satisfying local tastes while continuing to offer Western dishes. When asked about his future plans, Sopheak is full of ambition. He says, “One day, I’d like to be in charge of the different Khemas and in turn train the younger generations ”. And finally, he says he also wants to teach the children of the PSE association to “help them reach new horizons and pursue their dreams”.  His Made In Khéma recommendations   If you walk through the doors of Khéma Pasteur and would like to try one of his favourite dishes, you’re in for a treat!  For breakfast, he loves to enjoy “Eggs Royale”, poached eggs with salmon gravlax accompanied by a toasted muffin topped with a creamy hollandaise sauce.  For lunch, … Read more