Sunday, August 20, 2017

Helping hand: Three social enterprise restaurants in Yangon

They say that fine dining brings out the selfish glutton in us all. But at these Yangon social enterprise restaurants – celebrated for their missions as well as the morsels that come from the kitchen – dining is wholesome for the body and soul.

Photo: StaffPhoto: Staff

Shwe Sa Bwe hotel and restaurant training centre
20, Malikha Street, Mayangone township

Located ina quiet spot on Malikha Lane just off Parami Road, Shwe Sa Bwe offers elegant fine-dining in addition to serving as a hospitality training centre for underprivileged ethnic and Myanmar youth.

The breezy garden area and restaurant villa make for a tranquil dining experience, and the ever-changing menu offers a wide selection of Western-style dishes created with fresh, locally grown produce.

The restaurant was founded in 2011 by chef Francois Stoupan, who developed the idea during a trip to Shan State in 1998.

“I met two little girls offering flowers where I was trekking. From that moment on, I decided to set up a centre to help kids in Myanmar,” Stoupan said.

Trainees are carefully selected from all over the country. Each training course takes 11 months to complete and the centre provides accommodation and food free of charge.

“We select youths who are motivated and respectful. Students can choose whether they want to learn cooking or serving skills,” he said.

Ma Win Mu, a past student who now works as a chef at the restaurant, came to Yangon from southern Shan State. She says the training program inspired her love of cooking.

“I am happy to work here because I have an opportunity to help new students who come from far parts of the country like me. I love trying new Western cuisines – it’s exciting,” she said.

Photo: StaffPhoto: Staff

Yangon Bakehouse Training Café
Inya Training Café. 30 Inya Road, Kamaryut | Pearl Condo Training Café, Block C, Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan

Yangon Bakehouse is a social enterprise dedicated to working with disadvantaged women in need of a second chance. The women are provided with skills to earn a livelihood and find placements in local restaurants and cafes. As well as training in baking and hospitality, the café provides livelihood classes including health, nutrition, personal finance, personal safety, women’s economic empowerment and English.

Heatherly Butcher, one of the directors of Yangon Bakehouse, says helping women to help themselves is not an easy task.
“When we see the lives of women changed, when we see women with new confidence and pride in their abilities, when we see women who once never thought beyond today now believe their dreams for a better tomorrow are possible, we feel joy and know that our hard work, financial commitment and business challenges are worth it,” she said.

In addition to fresh coffee, the café offers a delicious range of freshly baked goods including cakes, biscuits and homemade bread. Their selection of sandwiches (K4000-6000) is among the best in the city and can be delivered to your desk through Yangon Door2Door.

Their recently opened new branch on Inya Road is the perfect place to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Photo: StaffPhoto: Staff

Linkage restaurant and gallery
Building 141, Seikkanthar Street (lower block)

On the first floor of a traditional building on Seikkanthar Street, this quaint restaurant is decorated wall to wall with bright paintings, all of which are for sale. Serving Chinese, Thai, European and Myanmar food, Linkage is run by a non-profit group that works to improve the lives of street children through vocational training.

Created by Ma Khin Hnit Thit Oo, a local tour guide and alumna of the French Institute of Myanmar, along with her alumni friends, the restaurant provides children with hospitality skills under the watchful eye of chef Ko Ye Htut.

“It is difficult to train street kids because they find it difficult to work under strict guidance. Some stay with us for years, but some leave after just a few weeks of training,” Ko Ye Htut said.

“I want them to be useful adults. There are many restaurants in Yangon – if they can learn cooking and serving, they can stand on their own feet,” he said.

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