They say every meal at Spoons makes a difference to someone living in the north Cambodian tourist city of Siem Reap. Opened late last year, the rustic-chic café serves polished Cambodian street food in a cutting-edge bamboo building constructed from raw materials supplied by a sustainable farming enterprise. The supply chain, from napkins to vegetables to rice liquor, is resolutely local, and the staff are young hospitality trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Spoons, run by hospitality school EGBOK, is the latest in a raft of community initiatives aimed at easing the growing pains of Siem Reap. About 2.2 million tourists visited the city last year, drawn by the nearby temple complex of Angkor Wat.
The first substantial community project was Asana Organic Farmers Market, which opened two years ago in the last traditional house in the colonial quarter. Green Gecko Project's recycling business, called Rehash Trash, trains impoverished women to crochet colourful ottomans and placemats from plastic bags, while the #RefillNotLandfill campaign has persuaded scores of tourism businesses to offer guests reusable aluminium bottles that can be refilled free at filtered-water stations. The aim is to reduce the 4.6 million plastic water bottles discarded by visitors monthly.
The ripple effect of these initiatives is felt throughout the country. Spoons, for instance, is committed to using as many eco-friendly products as possible, from biodegradable straws and menus printed on banana-tree paper to placemats woven from waste plastic. Used cooking oil is converted into biofuels and soap, and food waste that can't be composted is given to local farmers for use as animal feed.
On the table expect fruity cocktails based on infused rice spirits, and street food-style dishes such as grilled chicken skewers marinated in kroeung, an aromatic Cambodian herb paste.
Spoons, Bamboo Rd, Wat Damnak Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia, egbokmission.org/spoons-cafe.