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Dining with a Conscience in Southeast Asia

Dining with a Conscience in Southeast Asia

Dining with a Conscience in Southeast Asia

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  • Image © 2007 Natnapha Thanatharakit

At a first glance you may think the topic "Dining with a Conscience" here is all about health foods and how they are environmentally or eco-responsible. Many restaurants today prepare and serve you meals with more awareness in improving the world or societies' health and environment. "Enjoy your meal, but think about what you're doing to your body and the earth" is the concept of this kind of restaurant.

In a region famous for its delectable cuisine, several Southeast Asian restaurants are now also dishing up opportunities for the local community with their socially responsible policies and vocational training programs.

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In Siem Reap, Le Jardin des Delices is the training restaurant of the famous Paul Dubrule Hospitality & Tourism School and was established to provide young, underprivileged Cambodians with an opportunity to train in the skills of the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry.

Delicious Khmer and European fusion cuisine is served on a terrace fronting a lush exotic garden. But the tastiest aspect of all is that while you enjoy the savoir faire of the students, you are also contributing to the sustainability of a vital educational project.

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In just five years, the Hanoi based KOTO (Know One, Teach One) has grown from a small sandwich shop to a 120-seat restaurant and an internationally accredited hospitality program that is breaking the cycle of poverty amongst street and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.

The young people in the KOTO program study hospitality skills and English, while gaining practical skills working at the KOTO Restaurant. Indeed, KOTO boasts a 100 percent success rate in placing its graduates in their first job in the hospitality industry.

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In Thailand, the popular restaurant chain Cabbages and Condoms was founded by the kingdom’s leading philanthropist and former Minister of Health, Mechai Viravaidya, in an effort to make condoms as common - and as accepted - as cabbages.

The food is consistently delicious (and ‘guaranteed not to cause pregnancy!’) and all proceeds from the restaurants are used to fund the social programs of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a non-profit organization founded in 1974 by Meechai himself.

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Choosing to eat at socially responsible restaurants such as these can make a big difference to the most vulnerable sectors of the local community. In a region that traditionally suffers from child prostitution and exploitative labor, a socially responsible service industry is now becoming the order of the day.

On your next trip to Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand, why not sample the delicious fare of these restaurants and support their valuable work?

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Note: The author works for Exotissimo Travel, which arranges trips to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Published on 5/16/07

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