Meet chef Joannès Rivière, the Frenchman putting the spotlight on Cambodia's cuisine

Though Siem Reap's Cuisine Wat Damnak was the first Cambodian restaurant to enter the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2015, rising to No.43 in 2016, it wasn't until last month that, for the first time, a Cambodian acknowledged its position on the list. "This is how it works. The food scene is small in Cambodia so we keep a low profile," says chef-patron Joannès Rivière.


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JOANNES RIVIERE, CHEF & CO-OWNER CUISINE WAT DAMNAK, SIEM REAP "First of all, there is obviously the war, that has put the country 30 years back behind let's say Thailand. There is also the fact that even nowadays there is not a proper Cambodian food curriculum within the country of Cambodia, so there is no, at the end, maybe a proper identity to Cambodian cuisine. I was first asked when I came as a cooking teacher for an NGO to write a Cambodian cookbook. It was the first Cambodian cookbook written in French and it was the third Cambodian cookbook written in English in 2005, so there was nothing written about Cambodian food."

Cuisine Wat Damnak is popular among visitors and locals. Chef Joannès says the biggest compliment he gets from local customers is that his food looks Western but tastes Cambodian.

Chefs such as the two Kimsans and Joannès have started the important work of defining and promoting Cambodian food, but it will take a generation of young, passionate Cambodian chefs and foodies to spread their food culture around the world.


The Irish Times

Welcome to my place, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hong Kong Apple Daily

"獲獎餐廳Cuisine Wat Damnak,沒有名廚坐鎮,沒有fine dining格局,只有移居暹粒12年,對在地食材有無限堅持的法國廚師Joannès Rivière,為柬菜爭一口氣。"

New York Times

36 Hours in Siem Reap

"Don’t let the polished plating at the well-regarded Cuisine Wat Damnak fool you: The dishes from the longtime resident French chef Joannès Rivière’s kitchen are firmly rooted in Cambodian flavors."

Gran Tourismo Travels

"The restaurant of Chef Joannès Rivière, Cuisine Wat Damnak in Siem Reap, has become the first Cambodian restaurant to land on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants...where it was named Best Restaurant in Cambodia."

Going Places

Wat's Cooking in Siem Reap

"Cuisine Wat Damnak's chef, Joannès Rivière, has become famous across Cambodia for his masterful and creative take on traditional Khmer flavors."

Radio Télévision Suisse

"Joannès et sa cuisine khmère. Il y a deux ans, l’expatrié Joannès Rivière et son épouse Carole ont ouvert un restaurant à Siem Reap. Visite du marché en sa compagnie, à la découverte des différences culinaires avec l’Europe."

Move to Cambodia

Romanticizing the Cambodian Kitchen with Joannès Rivière

"Rivière’s dishes are truly Cambodian — he doesn’t shy away from using ingredients that most Westerners find intimidating, such as the boldly pungent Khmer prahok — but prepared with traditional French discipline and attention to detail. The results are sublime."

South China Morning Post

Destination: Siem Reap

"Cuisine Wat Damnak is one of the best restaurants in Cambodia, and its mission is to showcase Cambodian ingredients. Riviere believes that food, like wine, is defined by terroir — the place it's grown, raised and gathered."

Wall Street Journal

Food Fridays: Cuisine Wat Damnak in Siem Reap

"Be prepared to be surprised at Cuisine Wat Damnak, a contemporary Cambodian restaurant in Siem Reap that has entirely transformed native dishes seen on the streets into haute cuisine."

The Financial Times

The French-Cambodian Connection

"Two menus — one four course and the other five courses — demonstrate classic French technique, though the cuisine is Cambodian. Even more exciting is the balance and acidity that Rivière is achieving with so many exciting local ingredients."