“When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a businesswoman. I imagined I would specialise in grocery shopping, brewing all sorts of products with bright colours and exotic scents.
If this desire didn’t finally come true, Solina Chhorng doesn’t care:
“On the contrary, working in the hospitality industry is just as fascinating, if not more so, than my childhood dream. It’s a highly motivating daily challenge, and never routine.”
Finding a job at 17
Solina has plenty of energy and drive. It took an incredible amount of willpower to get through a family crisis that fell like a knife at the end of her adolescence. Born in Siem Reap, the studious young girl seemed destined for brilliant studies. However, when she was only 17 years old, she had to give up everything when her father died suddenly. “I absolutely had to find a job to help my family. That was my top priority. I took the first job I was offered, as a waitress in a restaurant. I didn’t think I’d ever work in this sector, but that’s how I started, and I liked it right away! “In recounting this episode, Solina, who is friendly and dynamic, also shows how strong a young woman can be in the face of the hardest blows.
Learning again and again
Keeping her positive energy, Solina continued to develop her professional career. After two years as a waitress, she applied for a job at the Hotel de la Paix, now Park Hyatt. This outstanding 5-star property was a remarkable education for this self-taught woman who was eager to evolve within her new profession.
“I followed a large number of training courses, all of which I successfully completed. In just a few years, I was able to catch up on my schooling and improve my skills in areas such as English, IT, guest reception and management.
“Among plenty of other things! I spent seven years with this hotel, working my way up the ladder step by step. I was sure of myself and the career I wanted to pursue. When, in 2016, Malis Siem Reap announced its opening, I immediately tried my luck. I did the right thing, because here I am now Executive Assistant.”
The work of a conductor
The role is a particularly demanding one, which Solina takes up every day without batting an eyelid. “It’s always a great satisfaction to solve all kinds of problems, sometimes the most unexpected ones. But also to meet customer expectations, to distribute tasks among the staff, to organise training, to act as an interface between customers, employees and management, to manage reservations and messages, and much more besides,“ she says. Adaptability, autonomy, versatility and a sense of initiative are all part of the job description for Executive Assistants, and Solina illustrates them all.
“Much more than a restaurant“
“I’ve been in this business for 11 years now and I never get tired of it. Besides, working at Malis is exciting and motivating. I invite those who have not yet visited to come and discover this establishment. For the beauty of the building, of course, as well as its interior decoration, which illustrates the sense of hospitality we hold dear. But, above all, to taste our specialities, since the Chef is a true artist, who knows how to play with all the richness of Cambodian cuisine. To make a long story short, I would simply say that Malis is much more than a restaurant.“
It is this Cambodian cuisine, enhanced by Chef Sokha, that appeals so much to visitors who wish to discover the subtleties of our national gastronomy. But also, and above all, to the Cambodians who flock to the restaurant’s tables in great numbers. “Now that the flow of tourists has dried up because of the health crisis, we have the privilege of being able to count on a local clientele who are faithful to us. That is an undeniable plus in such a time, but it is also a sort of validation of the quality of our cuisine,“ she says.
Solina herself particularly appreciates this cuisine, as well as nightclubbing with friends, travelling (“discovering new cultures, isn’t it fascinating?“), reading, and long bike rides around the temples of Angkor. “We often go out with our colleagues because we are very close even outside of work. The staff of Malis and Khéma, who belong to the same group, often visit each other, because we are almost opposite each other. All you have to do is cross the river! And we are also sometimes invited to Phnom Penh for team meetings or training. So we have the joy of getting to know each other and of appreciating each other. It’s a definite advantage in a company”. To be able to count on such employees is too.