A Meilleur Ouvrier de France at the Bayon pastry school

A Meilleur Ouvrier de France at the Bayon pastry school

During the month of December, we were once again lucky enough to welcome Fabrice Prochasson, Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1996, for a week at our pastry school.

Prochasson et équipe Bayon

In 1982, encouraged by his mother, Fabrice Prochasson discovered the world of gastronomy, which he never left. He first worked at Lenôtre as head of Research and Development from 1999 to 2002. He realized several prestigious events such as the inauguration the tunnel under the Manche in 1992, the 1998 and 2006 soccer world cups and the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.    

In 1996, he became Meilleur Ouvrier de France in the cooking category and was the official coach of the French winner of the Bocuse d’Or in 2013, Thibaut Ruggeri.

In 2016, he joined the Aryzta Group as creative and innovation manager for the group’s brands including Coup de pates®. For more than 50 years, Coup de pates® has been serving the entire catering industry with finished and semi-finished frozen products, combining innovation and tradition. Coup de pates and Chef Fabrice Prochasson have supported the Bayon Pastry School since 2018.

Last December, the chef came to visit us for a week to cook with our students. This is not Mr. Prochasson’s first time to help the Bayon. Indeed, he already came once to Siem Reap in March 2019 to delight us during the Charity Gala.

Throughout the week, our students had the chance to cook with him to prepare the event “The Bayon Gathering Night”. The goal of this evening was to bring together again friends of the Bayon in Cambodia. For this occasion, we prepared a buffet worthy of the name. Foccacia, shrimp skewers, tempura, leek quiche, coffee marinated salmon, macarons, millefeuilles… our guests enjoyed the food, and our students had a great time cooking with the chef.

Invités et buffet - Bayon Gathering Night
Etudiante en préparation - Bayon Gathering Night
Buffet - Bayon Gathering Night

We are especially proud to have been able to bring all these beautiful people together in this lovely place called Endora. And we are proud of our students and colleagues for the delicious food. We thank them for their commitment and motivation throughout the week. To congratulate them, we also organized a graduation ceremony in the presence of the chef so that the students will keep a very good memory of this week.

We also thank Chef Fabrice Prochasson for his kindness, his sharing of knowledge and his benevolence with our students.

Our projects do not stop there, we have great prospects for the year 2023 with Coup de pates and the Chef Fabrice Prochasson whom we thank greatly for their support.

Culinary immersion in France: between discovery and training

Culinary immersion in France: between discovery and training

From November 6 to 16, Sokly, pastry teacher, and Chomrong, English teacher at the Bayon pastry school, had the opportunity to spend a few days in Paris.

This trip organized by Apprentis d’Auteuil and bringing together the different members of the ASSET – H&C program allowed them to follow a training course on pedagogy.

After a long flight, Sokly and Chomrong finally landed in Paris and took the train to Château des Vaux, in Eure-et-Loir, where a week of classes and workshops of all kinds awaited them.

During these few days of training, our teachers were able to attend different classes with the students trained at Apprentis d’Auteuil. In particular, they were able to participate in different cooking classes focused on the themes of “catering”, “pastry” and “bakery” where they learned to cook a blanquette de veau, a Parisian flan, baguettes and many others. These cooking classes also allowed our pastry teacher, Sokly, to discover many new equipment and ingredients. These discoveries can be a source of renewal in our kitchen in Cambodia.

After these few days of training, our teachers returned to Paris for the end of their stay. They enjoyed a boat ride on the Seine, a visit to the Eiffel Tower and a delicious French meal with the members of the Bayon Association present in France.

Atelier avec Chomrong
Sokly, Chomrong, Dubrule team à la Tour Eiffel
Sokly en cuisine

What did you learn during this week of training?

We learned and discovered many new things such as teaching styles and patterns, new recipes, new equipment and ingredients, how to work and communicate with your team in the kitchen.

What we learned most from this pedagogical training was the importance of soft skills. We teach young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is therefore essential for us to teach them adaptability, communication and teamwork within the professional sphere so that their integration into their future teams goes well. Apprentis d’Auteuil was able to give us the keys to approach these different subjects with the students.

What surprised you the most?

First of all, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. The Château des Vaux is a wonderful place, full of history. We were also impressed by the know-how of the chefs, their professionalism and their warm and friendly welcome in their kitchens. Moreover, the modernity of the kitchens and the equipment gave us a lot of ideas to rethink the layout of our kitchen in Cambodia.

In general, we were also surprised by the road traffic in France and its organization. We will remember that in France, we walk much more than in Cambodia!

What is different about our school?

At Apprentis d’Auteuil, students follow a minimum 2-year training program, whereas at Bayon, the training lasts only 1 year. There are many more students and teachers and the facilities are also more modern and diverse than at our school. Finally, students who wish to follow a training program at Apprentis d’Auteuil have to pay tuition fees that vary according to their family’s standard of living.

After these few days of training, what changes would you like to make to your program?

After attending these different courses and visiting such beautiful kitchens, we would like to add lessons on the different tools and technologies used in the kitchen so that our students have a broader knowledge of the different appliances used. As a pastry teacher, I would also like to expand the learning of French recipes so that the students have a greater knowledge of French cuisine and also expand the Coffee Shop menu with more varied dishes.

It would also be interesting to have exchanges between students and teachers of the two training courses to better understand the culture of the other country, the history of pastry, the know-how and the way of teaching.

What would you like to say to Apprentis D’Auteuil?

We would like to thank Apprentis d’Auteuil for organizing this exchange program with ASSET H&C members. This trip gave us the opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge in the field of pedagogy and we are determined to apply it to our students in the future. We would also like to thank Pauline, Jeanne, Nicolas and all the teachers and staff of the school for their warm welcome in their training center.

The association les Enfants d’Angkor Wat: What is its mission ?

The association les Enfants d’Angkor Wat: What is its mission ?

Created in 2012 by Dominique Roussel, the association Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat supports Bayon Education & Development in Cambodia, allowing our organization and our local teams to develop several projects, mainly related to the issue of general education. Dominique explains to us what his mission is and the reasons for his commitment.

What is “Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat” ?

“Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat” is is a non-profit association (Law 1901), whose purpose is, thanks to its donors, to help the education, in the broadest sense of the term, of the poorest Cambodian children.

We are involved in the fields of education, health and professional training.

Our goal is to help these children, in often difficult family contexts, to gain permanent access to school, to build their future and to acquire the values that will be the foundation of their lives.

What are the guidelines of your comitment ?

Our actions are guided by 3 principles:

School is a place of development …

Beyond the classical intellectual and cultural learning, we want school to be a place where the child discovers what he/she has the “possibility to be” … and not the “obligation to be” that the family misery can impose on him/her. They discover their rights and duties but also explore their own potential in order to make informed choices for their future.

Health remains a major concern

Even if things are improving with time, health is an area where there is still work to be done. Nutrition remains precarious for many children and when it is chronically insufficient or unbalanced, it generates various pathologies affecting the child’s growth. In addition, diseases not detected at birth are sometimes identified later. We facilitate access to health care and provide financial support because health is still a luxury for the poorest.

The future employability of children is a priority investment

Building the future of these children is our purpose.

In our projects we invest in key fields that are and will be discriminating in their future employment searches. Thus, computer science, English and ecology are major issues in the education of children, as they are omnipresent in daily life and are used as selection criteria in recruitments. So many training courses to which poverty would not give them access.

What need have you identified in Cambodia ?

We must not forget, in Asia, the power that parents have over their children throughout their lives. I think we need to communicate with them more and more, to explain what we do, the values that drive us and that we talk about to the students…

Otherwise, there is a great risk that two universes will operate in parallel, the family and the school, and that one will not be the relay for the other…

Thus, we have to be very inclusive with the parents: share the pedagogical project and involve them in the follow-up as much as they can, so that the school is not only a place where they don’t have to feed the children or look after them while they work. Cambodian social workers and volunteers are doing an extraordinary job in this sense. It is necessary to continue and to amplify this work in order to avoid further school dropouts because the child remains too often an adjustment variable of the family economy.

What projects are you investing in ?

Each age has its own specific needs, so we have decided to create and implement projects for each age group, from early childhood to professional training.

With Bayon Education & Development, a Cambodian NGO, with whom we have signed a partnership and who follows these projects locally, we run a kindergarten class for underprivileged children in the Angkor temple region, we invest in computer and English classes as well as dental care for primary school students. We have also created a hostel for young girls in middle and high school in the north of the country to prevent them from dropping out of school and we support various vocational training programs in the hotel industry, agro-ecology and pastry-making.

Sponsoring the Bayon School – Why?

Sponsoring the Bayon School – Why?

The Bayon school welcomed its first pupils in the primary school almost 20 years ago in 1993 and over the years, our association has grown and diversified. A program to accompany students in secondary school, a pastry and bakery school, training in agro-ecology, development of income-generating activities for the families of the students… all of this has been made possible thanks to the precious support of a group of people: our godfathers, godmothers and sponsors.

They started out as a small group of about twenty;  now they form a community of more than 450. The Bayon School is a big family, in which each person plays a role: from the volunteers, to Thorth, our executive director, to the occasional donor. The sponsors play a central role in this wonderful picture because they not only bring our projects to life, but also support them in the long term. Accountants, artists, school teachers, from Paris to the small villages of the Vaucluse, London or Singapore, so many different profiles that constitute the primary strength of our projects.

Our gratitude is immense and thanking these men and women is a priority for us. Our regular exchanges with them allow us to maintain strong links over the years. An updated presentation of our projects every other month, a newsletter which discusses fundamental issues every quarter, a direct link with news from the field on social networks and through direct exchange with our communication manager… We do everything possible to place them at the heart of our projects. Authenticity and sincerity are the key words of this relationship which allows us to provide quality education to children living within the Angkor temples.

By sponsoring the Bayon School, they have decided to support this quality education, entirely free of charge for more than 450 young people, taking care of all the basic needs which are necessary to the proper development of children/students. While a quality education is essential to progress in life, it is at least as important to foster personal development through recreational, cultural and sports activities.  This is why we have integrated various activities into the school curriculum, from physical activity to cultural and artistic awareness.

You too can take part in this magnificent web of human links (participation from 13€ per month). All the information about sponsorship and other ways of support on our website: https://ecoledubayon.opte.io/nous-soutenir/

Rainy season, agro-ecology and climate change: the challenges of dual seasonality in Cambodia

Marie Hooker, intern in the agroecology program, arrived in Siem Reap at the end of August, right in the middle of the rainy season. Here she explains the findings and issues she noticed during this important period in Cambodia. 

Cambodia’s climate is tropical and humid. During the year, a dry season alternates with a rainy season, which accounts for 80% of the annual rainfall. We are just coming out of this rainy season, which runs from May to November, and which is of crucial importance for agricultural production.

Cambodian farmers are used to living with this double season and have adapted their farming systems. Rice, for example, is grown year-round in six-month cropping cycles, with sowing and harvesting dates aligned with the onset of the dry and rainy seasons. This ensures that the crops are harvested with the right moisture content and means that the rice can be stored for up to six months.

For the farmers that we accompany, the rainy season is a complicated time, as the humidity level becomes too high for the production of vegetables and the heavy rains cause damage to the soil and crops. A drop in production during this period is therefore to be expected (even more so this year when the effect has been amplified by the sanitary crisis). It is much easier to control the cropping system in the dry season, where, with sufficient water,  the vegetables grow without difficulty.

I was able to observe for myself the consequences of the rainy season on our farmers’ farms. The first and most obvious one is the flooding of the gardens. Most farms have a portion of their garden flooded during the last two months of the rainy season (September to November). This happens every year and they are prepared for it, but it does mean that they have only a small area to cultivate during this period.

Another direct consequence is that the humidity and recurrent rains are particularly conducive to the development of diseases and pests on the crops. It is common for an entire crop to die suddenly from a fungus or insect attack. Without pesticides, it is very difficult to counter these attacks when they occur, so we only have preventive techniques, the effectiveness of which depends on the entire agro-ecological exploitation of the garden.

Heavy rains also cause significant damage to the soil. Bare soil risks the formation of a crust, i.e. compacting of the surface, making seed germination difficult. There is also a risk of erosion and loss of nutrients from rain. Sowing is therefore particularly difficult at this time of year, due to the formation of the crust and the fragility of the young seedlings, which cannot withstand the violence of the rains.

Faced with all these problems, our farmers are forced to adapt their practices.

They sow their crops under shelters, they are more attentive to the emergence of diseases and they are more cautious about the types of vegetables they grow. They switch to crops that are easier to grow, that they are comfortable with and that are less susceptible to disease. The mistake would be to continue to grow fragile crops, permanently introducing the disease or pest into the garden.

Agro-ecology consists in making the agricultural system work in accordance with natural processes, forming a whole. Its principles therefore offer solutions that allow production not in spite of, but in harmony with the rainy season. To avoid soil erosion, we need to maintain a permanent cover of the soil, using green manure, for example. This promotes soil life, improves its structure and provides nutrients that will be useful for the next crop. To avoid the proliferation of diseases, we cultivate adapted and diversified varieties, which increase the biodiversity of the agro-ecosystem and improve its functioning as an ecosystem. Thus, by allowing the garden to function according to these natural processes, the rainy season is no longer a constraint but an asset: it is the moment to sow green manure that would otherwise have taken the place of a crop, to collect water hyacinths to make compost, or to diversify one’s cropping system by growing adapted vegetables.

These techniques may seem less productive over the short term, and it is sometimes difficult for our farmers to apply them, knowing that they will not earn a direct income. However, the creation of a functional agro-ecosystem will allow them to obtain a stable production in the medium and long term. The more they implement techniques to preserve their soils and promote biodiversity, the easier it will be for them to cultivate crops during the rainy season, and the more resilient their gardens will be in the face of increasingly marked climatic variability.

The problems mentioned here are not specific to the rainy season. Soil erosion, the appearance of crop diseases and pests, as well as the loss of crop biodiversity are global problems that affect all agricultural systems, and which are particularly highlighted by the rainy season. The alternating dry and wet seasons make Cambodia particularly vulnerable to climate change, as this will mean more drought in the dry season and more extreme conditions in the rainy season. The rainy season is becoming more and more unpredictable, increasing uncertainty for farmers about what they will be able to produce.

It is therefore essential to promote agricultural systems that can cope with these challenges, that are adapted to the dual seasonality, but that are also resilient to future variability. To be sustainable, these systems must be agro-ecological, i.e. based on natural processes and the careful observation of the environment, all of which are the antithesis of Western agribusiness models.

Four lessons to be learned from this exceptional year

Four lessons to be learned from this exceptional year

Thorth, Vantha, Rithy, Sakoth and Soky come back with their words on these last two years and on what lessons they have learned. What tools will we keep in the future? What did we learn?

Resilience, solidarity and adaptability: these are the terms that have guided their work and become the driving force behind their commitment.

Lesson #1: Learn to anticipate to better apprehend

If you ask Thorth, Deputy Executive Director of the Bayon School, what he remembers about the past year, his first words are “unpredictable” and “stressful”. Indeed, his main goal over the past few months has been “to make sure that we would be able to maintain the education of all our students at a stable level: we had to consider which were the essential actions where we needed to mobilize our efforts and which were the ones where we could slow down, to make sure that we would be able to meet this goal, despite the situation.” 

He explains that we had to consult, debate and make decisions to respond to the emergency, without knowing how the crisis would evolve: “This taught me to analyze and question myself more about future issues in order to anticipate this type of situation as well as possible, even though they are exceptional.”

“We learned to adapt quickly and to find a solution to each problem, thanks to the commitment of the entire team: the challenge was to move forward day after day and to think about our actions in the short term to ensure an optimal efficiency.”

Thorth, Deputy Executive Director.

Lesson #2: Communicate better to be aware of each other’s needs

The implementation of online courses within our training and the obligation to visit our primary school students in the villages made us realize that it was essential to be aware of everyone’s needs.

“We became aware of everyone’s needs because we were with them on a daily basis, in their villages and their environment. We were able to discuss with the parents, especially those whose children are having the most difficulty. Today, this allows us to go back to school knowing which students we need to follow more closely, even though we are back to functioning normally.”

Vantha, Primary School Director.

The development of online education – Zoom, YouTube and Telegram – means that our baking school students have been able to use these different communication channels to stay in constant contact with our teams and their peers. Sokly, our pastry teacher, and Rithy, the new director of the pastry school, were therefore never disconnected from the reality of each one, quite the contrary.

“Each platform had its purpose. Zoom was a way to discuss together any questions related to the courses but also a space where students could hear and exchange with each other. YouTube allowed students to review at their own rhythm and to prepare their questions for our online meetings. Finally, Telegram was our main tool to discuss more informal, but all the more important, subjects at this time: how they are feeling, their emotions about the crisis and how we can help them. It allowed us to stay connected with them and for them to feel that we were listening to them.”

Rithy, Pastry School Director.

Lesson #3: Focus on short and local circuits

When the town of Siem Reap closed and all activities were suspended, the Vegetable Garden Project team was faced with a major dilemma: how to sell the vegetables produced by our farmers and avoid losses? 

Most of the farmers could no longer move between villages while the vegetable production was increasing. They had no way of selling their vegetables and we needed to find solutions. Working with the social team and the follow up team, we decided to buy back the vegetables and then redistribute them to our beneficiary families. They were therefore assured of having an income to take care of their families and we were assured that our beneficiaries would have something to eat despite the loss of their jobs,” said Sakoth, manager of the vegetable garden project and the agro-ecology school. “This project has strengthened the work of our farmers and made them aware of the role they play in Bayon’s chain of support. They are increasingly motivated to learn and to become more involved, so that it benefits everyone.” 

From a more global perspective, the complete absence of tourists has had a considerable impact on our activities, mainly that of the Coffee Shop. For Thorth, it was the opportunity to rethink our relationship with the local population, so that we would not be completely dependent on tourists. “The closure of the Coffee Shop was not easy to manage since its income finances our pastry training program. We had to find new solutions. Today, we would like to develop local products so that we can serve a local clientele and increase our visibility in Siem Reap.

Sreyleak, Coffee Shop Manager.

Lesson #4: Working better as a team for greater efficiency

The social team, in constant contact with our students and their families, has been at the heart of our actions for many months. Their work has been essential in following up with our families and responding effectively to the emergency. Soky, head of the social team, is proud of the work accomplished by her colleagues.

“We had to work hand in hand and it was not always easy. We had to think about our actions as a team, to divide the tasks. We realized what needed to be done and had to prepare ourselves to be more effective in the field. I’m really proud of our work; we’ve been busy, it has been hard work, but we have never stopped thinking about the families and the children.”

Soky, Social Team Manager.

Outside the Bayon School team, it was also necessary to work closely with the local authorities, as it was difficult to get around. “We worked jointly with the village and community chiefs. They often acted as a relay between our beneficiaries and our teams, which allowed us to keep in touch, even when we could not move between areas,” explains Thorth.

What we remember from that time is the force of teamwork: we can help each other to help those most in need. The team is more close-knit now than ever before.