Thalias & Career : Khuon Vannara, “The key to success is teamwork and cohesion”

Born in Phnom Penh, Khuon Vannara is 41 years old and full of energy. Behind his smile and good humour is an incredible determination, which he put to good use at the Malis restaurant in Phnom Penh for several years. He has now been with the Siena restaurant since it opened.

“The key to success is teamwork and cohesion…” Vannara understood this at a very young age, whether on the football pitch or on stage as a guitarist in a local band. For him, every experience is an enrichment and a new perspective. Today he runs the Siena restaurant in Phnom Penh, a very different path from his original career plan. In his spare time, he spends his energy playing football or indulging in his second passion: music. 

First steps 

Khuon Vannara attended secondary school in the capital until he graduated. At that age, music had already taken hold of him: “We were in a band with some classmates and we performed at school events. After graduating, I decided to continue in this vein, playing with another band at weddings and parties”.  

“Those moments have stayed with me and every interaction with our audience has been very enriching.” 

However, his income as a musician remained meagre. After many discussions with his mother, he decided to follow her advice and put music on the back burner: “I said goodbye to my long hair and looked for work in the service sector,” he confides. 

From stage to service 

It was in 2007 that Vannara first walked through the doors of Malis in Phnom Penh, where he was hired as a bartender.  

“Initially, working in the service and catering industry wasn’t part of my ambitions, I wanted to invest a year or two to gain new experience, but then I changed my mind”. 

Khuon Vannara then moved to the dining room as a waiter. Two years later, he became a chef de rang and learnt management methods. After three years, he was promoted to supervisor and completed his apprenticeship by spending two years as assistant manager. Now, through sheer determination and perseverance, not forgetting the support of his team, he runs the restaurant.  


This passionate Cambodian says he spends countless hours trying to provide the best possible service in one of the capital’s finest Cambodian restaurants. Most of his time is spent on operations. 

His main role is to coordinate and direct the work of the staff in preparing the tables and serving the food. In between morning meetings with his supervisor and colleagues, he ensures good communication between the brigade and the dining room team, giving advice and recommendations and supporting the morale of the team. 

Challenges faced  

Vannara has been able to overcome the few obstacles he has encountered thanks to his characteristic perseverance: “When I became a waiter, learning English was a big challenge”. 

“Becoming bilingual was essential because we also welcome foreign customers”.  

“Then, as soon as I became head waiter, I had to learn management techniques. As I’m very close to my manager, I told him that I needed to learn more in order to be more efficient. His presence and sound advice really helped me, and I was also able to count on the support of the Thalias Group. The company offers training in all aspects of our profession, from wine to management.  

As for the future, Vanara remains ambitious. For him, life is a series of tests that should be seen as experiences: “I have a constant need to evolve and I’d like to become a manager or director of an establishment within my company. I need a few more years to perfect myself and acquire new skills. I’m happy and fulfilled at Thalias and I don’t intend to leave any time soon,” concludes the young man.  

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