Photo Essays

You’ll Never Succeed Without Passion

By: Leza Sorn

Photo by Wathana Sao

Mahob restaurant is located in located in River road, Krong Siem Reap. Mahob restaurant is a restaurant that serves only Khmer food. Most of their costumer are both Cambodian and foreigners.

Chef Sothea has had a dream of becoming a chef since he was 18. He is the biggest brother in his family so his responsibility was to cook food for his family because his parents were busy with their work. When he cooked food every day it became his habit and he started to love cooking subconsciously. When he was 18 he started to work because he didn’t have enough money to continue to study. He tried to apply for jobs in service but he wasn’t selected. He decided to apply to work at a hotel and to learn to cook, and he was selected to work at the hotel. Since that time he started to know what exactly he was really good at.  With his own restaurant, he tries to show others as much about Cambodian culture as he can. When he found enough money, he opened a small restaurant called Coastal. Later in 2014, he opened Mahob restaurant. Nowadays he has a few restaurants, but Mahob is one of his favorite restaurants because it has a good name to represent Cambodia. Mahob is the only restaurant that is more like a Cambodian restaurant. Before he opened his restaurant he worked at a 5-star hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for 3 years. There, he was the head chef of Asian food management.

                                                               Nou Sary paintings. Photos by Leza Sorn

These paintings were painted by one of the most famous artists in Cambodia called Nou Sary. These paintings show a lot about Cambodian life, religion, and culture. They were all hanging on the walls behind the tables in the restaurant. They can attract more customers, especially foreigner, who can know more about Cambodian life by just coming to the restaurant to eat.  Also, chef Sothea is Cambodian and he really loves his own country. Because of that, he wanted to show the achievement of a Cambodian artist.

The chef tried as much as he could to use Cambodian products to decorate his restaurant. The basket used to surround the light is made from bamboo sticks which were really useful in historical time. For example, the small basket surrounding the small light was used to hold the rice.

Photo by Leza Sorn

This hot volcanic stone is used for roasting meat and mostly for roasting beef. The heat lasts for an hour and a half. The stone reaches about 200 to 230 degrees Celsius. They come from volcanic eruptions in China. Roasted meat on a hot stone is one of the main dishes in the restaurant. Chef Sothea’s was inspired by Egyptian culture but the taste of food is still Cambodian.

Photo by Leza Sorn

Vegetables such as tomatoes, mangoes, cucumbers, and some herbs are brought from Chef Sothea’s farm, but others he buys from Angkor Farm.

Photo by Phearum Sorn


Tables on the second floor of the renovated old traditional house can set about 80 customers.

Photo by Leza Sorn

Khmer medicines are put in drinking water and served to customers to help their health.

Photo by Dyna Chhem

A display of Khmer traditional products decorates the front of the restaurant. The Khmer stone mill was used a long time ago to grind rice into flour. Before the Khmer Rouge, a lot of people were using it, but after the Khmer Rouge came and destroyed it, people didn’t use it as much.

Photo by Leza Sorn


Chef Sothea really encourages the younger generation to follow their passion. “If you do something without passion you will never succeed,” he said. He also encourages young people that when they go to other countries, they should think of new ideas to help develop their own country. Also, he wants Cambodian to know that the chef is very important because their health depends on chef which if the chef cooks the that not good they might get sick. “People shouldn’t ignore chef and they should think that chef is really important,” he said. “I believe in the young generation.”

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