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Gastronomy & Career: Eden Gnean from Topaz becomes president of the Association des Sommeliers du Cambodge

Dernière mise à jour : 27 févr.

Last Friday, the Topaz restaurant hosted the first general meeting of the Association des Sommeliers du Cambodge. During the election of the board of directors, Eden Gnean, a young Cambodian woman who is now the manager of Topaz and who had previously chosen this original path in a field still dominated by men: the art of wine.

The election was led by Anthony Galliano, Treasurer of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, who made a point of recalling the purpose of this young association in his opening speech:

"The creation of the Cambodia Sommelier Association marks an important milestone in our country's culinary and hotel landscape. It demonstrates our shared desire to raise the standards of wine service in the restaurant sector and to foster the professional development of sommeliers throughout Cambodia", he said, adding:

"The purpose of the CSA is multifaceted and aims to achieve several key objectives, i.e. to raise professional standards, to dedicate itself to improving the credentials and service ethos for sommeliers in Cambodia, with the intention of recognising and rewarding excellence through accredited certificates of competence."

Anthony continued:

"We are committed to formalising oenology training, not only for sommeliers, but also for the public, to foster a greater appreciation of the art of wine. We also need to create career paths by encouraging the establishment of a clear professional profile for sommeliers in the Cambodian hotel industry. The association would also like to work with wine specialists and development partners to support our activities and contribute to the growth of the association. Through events, conferences and various activities, we aim to provide a platform for networking, learning and professional development. The association will operate as an independent, not-for-profit group, made up of members bound by mutual goodwill and sharing common goals and objectives".

Having initially chosen to follow a traditional course of study, Eden met someone who gave her the irresistible desire to become a sommelier. After working at the Sofitel in Phnom Penh, then at Khéma, CUTS at the Rosewood Hotel in Phnom Penh, where she was also restaurant manager and managed the largest collection of wines in Cambodia for the Wine Vault, and finally at Topaz in Phnom Penh, where she has been general manager since October 2023, Eden has been working as a sommelier since 2007.

 

About Eden & Interview

 

How do you feel after this election?

I am absolutely delighted to have been elected President of the Cambodian Sommelier Association at Topaz Restaurant! It's an incredible honour to be given this responsibility, and I'm looking forward to using this opportunity to make a real difference to the food and wine sector in Cambodia. Together, let's work to raise the standards of professionalism and expertise in our field, and create a brighter future for all food and wine professionals in the country.

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and your childhood

My name is Eden Gnean, and I was born about twelve kilometres from Phnom Penh, in the province of Kandal. I go back there once a week when I can, because my relatives are still there. My family isn't very big, just six people: my parents, my three sisters and me. My father works in construction and my mother is a housewife.

What was your school and university career like?

I started my education at a school near my home. Then I went to Phnom Penh to study Tourism and Hotel Management at Paññāsāstra University. It wasn't my first choice; I'd even started training in information technology.

But a work placement in a hotel changed my point of view and made me want to go into this sector instead. So it took me around seven years to complete my studies, between my initial choice and my reorientation, plus a year spent improving my English.

What did you do after graduating?

I worked at Rosewood Phnom Penh, which had recruited me as a sommelier while I was still studying. During this period, I also won a competition that enabled me to go to Singapore to further my experience.

What was the competition?

It was the competition for the best sommelier in Cambodia, which I won in 2013. There were very few women taking part, as it's still mainly a male profession. But one of my Cambodian friends, Sok Kanthei from Khéma La Poste, is also a sommelier, and I think there's a third in Siem Reap.

What motivated you to become a sommelier, and how did you get into this profession?

My first real encounter with wine was with a white Riesling from Alsace, a wine that I particularly liked. Wine is not yet the most popular drink in Cambodia, as our culture is more beer-orientated. That's why there are still relatively few people working in the wine industry.

"For me, it was a real revelation, so I started to read up on wine and learn on my own"

And then, when I started at Rosewood, exchanges with wine and spirits suppliers gave me the opportunity to learn many aspects of this field.

Not to mention the trip to Singapore, which was extremely instructive. Wine is not only an interesting subject, but also a complex and varied one: there are so many different appellations, grape varieties, origins, flavours and vintages...

What was your career path?

My first employer was the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, where I stayed for three and a half years, before joining the Thalias group to become executive assistant at Khéma Pasteur. Then I met the new F&B manager at Rosewood, who had just arrived and was looking for all sorts of advice on the wine sector in Cambodia. He then offered me a job as a sommelier, which of course I accepted straight away. I then joined the Thalias group again in October 2023 to manage the Topaz restaurant.

Eden Gnean of Topaz becomes President of the Cambodian Sommelier Association

What wines do you usually recommend?

I'll be advising customers as best I can, choosing from the many wines available in our cellar.

And you know them all?

Yes, that's my job! And I'm lucky to be able to taste wines as prestigious as Romanée Conti. To come back to your question, on average, three different wines are consumed during a meal.

For example, if customers choose seafood, a champagne accompaniment might be ideal. But the most popular wines here are reds, and that's where the job gets tricky: it's not just a question of recommending the best wine to go with a dish, you also have to take into account the desires and expectations of your customers, which sometimes makes things quite complex.

If we were to choose a bottle of wine, could you describe its history, flavours and special characteristics?

Of course! Let's take a bottle of the wine that will be featured on tonight's menu. It's Château Croix de Labrie, a Saint-Émilion grand cru, which is one of my favourite wines and reminds me of my stay in France in 2019.

"I had the honour of meeting the owners, chatting with them, visiting their cellar and learning a lot about the vinification of their product."

They apply the principles of biodynamic viticulture, so as to leave as much room as possible for nature. It's a wine that Cambodians particularly appreciate.

And when you eat your meals at home, do you also accompany them with wine?

Not very often!

What are your hobbies?

I really enjoy spending time with my friends, travelling and also trying out new restaurants that have just opened. Discovering new places and tasting wines are very important to me.

Eden Gnean du Topaz becomes president of the Cambodian Sommelier Association
Eden Gnean du Topaz becomes president of the Cambodian Sommelier Association

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