By Noemi Gamel
When we were in Hanoi, there was one restaurant I made sure we patronized: KOTO. One of the reasons I wanted to eat there were the desserts, because while Asia has amazing food, they are a bit lacking in the sweet department. The main reason, however, was that KOTO is one of the training restaurants in Hanoi.
KOTO’s mission is to train disadvantaged Vietnamese youth in the hospitality and culinary arts. They are also taught English lessons. KOTO is the venue where the trainees are able to hone their newly learned skills under the supervision of teaching wait staff and cooks. The food was pretty good, and the desserts were spectacular. I missed Western cakes and pastries! However, the best part of eating at KOTO was knowing we were helping a good cause.
Training restaurants are common in South East Asia. We also ate at Marum in Siem Reap, which trains disadvantaged Cambodian youth in the hospitality arts and provides them with an education. The parents of the Marum students are also employed for fair wages to make souvenirs that are sold in the Marum shop. Marum is a restaurant approved by Child Safe International, an organization whose mission is to protect children from exploitation and trafficking. In Phnom Penh, we ate at a delicious restaurant called Daughters of Cambodia, which provides employment and training to victims of the sex industry.
Next time you are in South East Asia, I highly recommend you visit a training restaurant. The food quality is excellent, the service meets high standards, and you may learn something about the local people.