For the summer season 2016, he has created a new menu based on some of the best things the season has to offer, including a delicious foie gras and green bean combination, a decadent roasted young pigeon with foie gras and a spectacular mille-feuille with vanilla cream and fresh strawberries that is definitely not for sharing.
Originally from Svay Rieng, Chef Sopheak came to Phnom Penh in 1995 when he trained first as a school teacher. But seeing his friend working in kitchens, he decided that maybe this was the path for him to find a better life. He spent a year training with Friends International, a hospitality training NGO in Phnom Penh, before starting his career at Comme à la Maison where he first discovered his passion for French food and cooking — a passion that he often takes home with him, much to his wife’s chagrin.
In 2002, he came to us at Topaz, where he has continued to develop that passion (and his very competitive spirit) not least when he spent six months honing his skills in the kitchens of 2-Michelin starred chef Alain Dutournier’s restaurant in Paris’s 1st Arrondissement, Carré des Feuillants, before moving south to the foot of the Pyrenees, where he found favour working at Michelin-starred restaurant Arrambide in the Hotel les Pyrénées.
He learned plenty on his journeys about the flavours and techniques that make French cooking so special, but he says the most important thing he learned was the value of Mise en Place, a term meaning ‘to put in place’. It means that before you even start each day you should have everything in place and ready to go, exactly where you need it to be. It sounds simple, but without it none of the magic would happen.
“Step by step, I’ve implemented the changes in the kitchen here at Topaz,” says Chef Sopheak, who was surprised at how different things were in French kitchens. It’s even more important here, where the menus tend to be longer than they are in France, he says.
It’s not just his passion that has pushed him though. Chef Sopheak is a competitive soul. “When I watched my friends and what they do, I always want to do better,” he says. And we happen to think he does.
The Summer Pick’s menu is available from the beginning of August. Keep an eye out for our chef’s special Lamb menu, also coming soon.