There are a lot of amazing initiatives around the world to help people who face difficulties making a living on their own. For instance, people with disabilities. It can be quite a challenge for them to find a way of earning money. Especially since in some cultures they’re considered as social outcasts and social safety nets are non-existent. Or children who live on the streets and don’t know how to survive other than by stealing or begging.
In Cambodia, the effects of the Red Khmer regime are still easily visible everywhere you look. You’ll see people missing limbs (because of the land mines mostly), people begging, poverty, and so on.
Fortunately, there area lot of ‘philanthropic’ projects in Cambodia. Like massage studios by blind people (see: massages that make you feel good in two ways). But also, restaurants that combine amazing food with creating chances for their staff to have a better life. I ate at two of these restaurants. And eating there didn’t feel like ‘charity’ or whatsoever. Yes, I was happy to contribute in a way to help solve a big (worldwide) problem. But I returned to both places because the food was to die for as well!
Epic Arts Café, Kampot
Kampot surprised me in a very positive way. I loved the nature, exploring the salt and pepper plantations by bicycle and…the food. Before I arrived, I made a list of cafes and restaurants I wanted to visit. And some of them were so good that I returned. Epic Arts Café was one of them.
Epic Arts Café was opened in 2006 to increase work opportunities for people with disabilities in Kampot. Since a lot of the employees of Epic Arts Café are deaf, the customers are provided with a menu form to fill out their selves. Smart! And easy. Well, not really easy for me. Everything on the menu sounded so promising, that I had difficulties choosing a dish.
I chose toast with poached eggs and vegetables. And it was as good as it looked. Served on a beautiful plate (which can be bought in the café and on the Russian Market in Phnom Penh). And even though I tried to resist, I ordered a delicious piece of pie as well. Maybe not the healthiest choice, but hey, it was for the greater good (I justified to myself).
The Epic Arts Café also sells some products made by their students, so if you’re looking for some souvenirs to bring back home, this is another reason to stop by at the café.
Friends International, Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh, ‘Friends, the restaurant’ can be found. One of the restaurants of the Tree Alliance organization, with other restaurants in other Cambodian cities, but also in Laos, Thailand and Ethiopia.
According to their Facebook page the Friends restaurant is a ‘training restaurant for marginalized youth’. And they serve ‘share plates of creative cuisine with influences from across the globe, refreshing cocktails and fresh juices.’
All this convinced me and my friends to have our dinner at Friends. And we weren’t disappointed. The stuff was very friendly and obviously happy to work at Friends. And the fusion dishes were truly something else. Very creative. And tasty. Like lotus flower chips. The food is a bit more expensive than other restaurants in Cambodia but that is justified by the idea of this restaurant. And if you loved the food as much as I did, you can even buy their ‘Best of’ cookbook that they sell in their shop, next to the restaurant.
So, if you’re in Kampot or in Phnom Penh, don’t miss out on your chance to support a good initiative by enjoying a nice meal. Good for the heart ánd for the stomach.