Warm-hearted, sincere and always ready with a smile. Anyone who has visited Khéma La Poste in its opening years or Malis in Phnom Penh over the last two years will be familiar with Sambo Nov’s warmth, graciousness and professionalism. She has been a beacon for many, which is why we are delighted to announce her promotion to a new position as Food & Beverage Director for the three Thalias outlets that will open at Flatiron by Meridian over the course of the next year.

Sambo joined Thalias in October 2017 to take up the challenging role of running our second Khéma outlet in a part of the city that was still relatively quiet at the time. Her first year there was not without its challenges as we waited for the area to pick up as we felt it would (and should for such a lovely, then under-appreciated part of Phnom Penh). But Sambo never gave up, and it is her tenacity and creativity that has stood her, and Thalias, in such good stead, especially over the last year and a half.

“Covid has been especially difficult for everyone, and I think it nearly killed my creativity,” said Sambo. “A lot of the staff were depressed, and many resigned although we still have 70% of our original team which I think is quite a lot in the circumstances. And then when you’re looking at a nearly empty restaurant floor that used to welcome as many as 300 people a day, it’s hard not to feel discouraged.”

But she has much to look forward to in her new role. As the F&B Director for brand new Khéma and Khéma GO outlets as well as a new concept for Thalias, an Italian steakhouse called Siena, Sambo will have a lot on her plate, but she’s looking forward to it. “We are looking at a new way of doing things for Thalias, and it is a part of a wider project to expand the brand across Cambodia, and perhaps elsewhere too. So, even from that point of view, it is very exciting,” she said.

“But even though I will be working with a larger team, my role will be much the same. That is to make sure that my team is fully supported in a friendly working environment where everyone feels fulfilled and can reach their potential,” she added.

Thalias’ outlets at Flatiron will cater for the luxurious serviced hotel-apartments and office workers that the building was designed to serve, as well as passing trade and visitors. These will be greeted on the ground floor by a Khéma Deli counter, and Khéma Go, whose range and services have been expanded for this new space which is due to open on November 7.

Upstairs, on the 28th floor, a beautiful, contemporary Khéma will offer all the same things that have made our other outlets such a popular destination for Phnom Penhers and its visitors, in particular the same great menu and incredible offers, including Khéma’s famed Free-Flow Breakfast, Wine & Dine and Afternoon Teas.

Up one more floor, Siena is a new direction for Thalias, a destination Italian steakhouse and restaurant with stunning views on Phnom Penh’s dramatic, dynamic sky-scape. Diners can choose whether to dine in the bistro lounge, with its relaxed, social atmosphere, or the more formal dining room. Whichever it is, the same friendly, dynamic and generous service will reign. And a large part of that will be down to Sambo’s efforts.

“For the last few months, we’ve been putting together a really dynamic team, including people who have been with Thalias for years. One of the advantages of COVID is the time that it has given us to work on training our staff, who are more confident and autonomous than they’ve ever been before.

“My first customers are always my team,” she said, adding “they are the first people who have to be satisfied. Once that is done, everything else flows naturally”.

Guests of Siena, Khéma or Khéma Go can come to expect the same from Sambo as we have seen over the years. The same polished refinement that comes from 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and the same commitment to ensuring that each customer feels valued no matter who they are or how much they are spending. She said, “despite all the things that I have learned during my time with Thalias, my core vision of hospitality has not changed. I still believe that it is about human beings and human interactions based on a genuine smile, warmth, friendliness, excitement, an endearing touch, an open ear or a lingering conversation. Shared moments that bring vibrancy to life”.

Sambo’s move up marks the evolution in a new approach for Thalias. We are setting our sights higher and wider than ever before. This means more outlets throughout Cambodia, and perhaps one day even beyond. “It is my dream to one day see a Malis in Sydney,” said Sambo, adding quickly, “it is just my dream. I don’t know what the company thinks about that”. Who knows what might happen though…