Joannès Rivière was born and raised near Roanne, a small French town in the Loire, a region famous for its gastronomy. Joannès obsession with seasonality and farm-to-table eating began early, when he worked at the family restaurant run by his father, who also grew vegetables for the renowned Michelin three-star restaurant, La Maison Troisgros. After graduating from cooking school in France, Joannès worked as a pastry chef in the US for two years and learned an impressive amount of American slang.
In 2003 he first came to Cambodia as a volunteer cooking teacher for the Sala Bai Hotel School in Siem Reap, where he wrote the school’s cookbook, Cambodian Cooking. Before opening Cuisine Wat Damnak, Joannès spent five years as the executive chef at Siem Reap’s famed Hotel de la Paix. In Cambodia he also met his partner Carole Salmon, with whom he originally created Cuisine Wat Damnak. Fluent in Khmer, the couple have embraced their adopted country, its culture and its food. Their hard work has been rewarded with critical acclaim, and the restaurant was named one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants.
Nguon Venchhay was born in 1982 in Battambang, Northwestern Cambodia, the second eldest of seven children. After graduating high school Venchhay travelled to Siem Reap where he worked in local restaurants before becoming part of the same prestigious handpicked team as Joannès for the opening of the luxorious Hotel De La Paix in 2005.
In 2007 while working as Assistant Manager at the iconic Meric Restaurant (Hotel De La Paix’s highly regarded fine dining room) Venchhay’s suave and natural hospitality talents were noticed by a VIP guest staying at the hotel. He was offered an exciting and advantageous job position in Singapore, which he eagerly accepted. Shortly after starting his freshly appointed post Venchhay enrolled at the esteemed British Council Singapore in order to perfect his English language skills, while also studying for his Advanced Diploma in Hotel Management, which he was awarded in 2009 from the accredited Boston Business School.
With a considerable history in hospitality spanning over a decade and including countries such as Cambodia, Singapore, Fiji and Macau, Venchhay’s experience is vastly extensive. He reconnected with friend and colleague Joannès when he finally settled back in Cambodia and became a full partner in Cuisine Wat Damnak in 2019.