Inspiration & Eats at Tevy’s Place.
Tevy’s Place, Siem Reap.
When I started my Siem Reap cafes and restaurants series, I had not an inkling of the amazing stories that lay in wait. Sladja and I still feel privileged to have met so many genuinely lovely people during our stay. And of course for the opportunity to tell their stories. In this regard, the tale of Tevy’s Place more than holds its own, thanks to the inspirational life of its Khmer owner.
Occupying a modest little spot on Street 26, just across the road from Paris Bakery, I realised I must have driven past Tevy’s Place a hundred times without ever noticing it. Finally, as I strolled inside one boiling hot May afternoon, I could see why it had so easily escaped my attention. At that time, Tevy’s Place was a humble eatery with simple decor, an open kitchen and rock bottom prices. How cheap? I’m talking dishes that start as low as one dollar.
Tevy’s Place, Siem Reap.
Consequently, it wasn’t difficult to see why Tevy’s Place was so popular with tourists and locals alike. Dirt cheap and delicious, what’s not to like? But the thing that really makes this tiny restaurant so special is Tevy herself, an incredible Khmer woman born in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Carrying a bulging basket of fresh vegetables, she greeted us personally that day with a warm smile that betrayed not a hint of the hardships she has faced during her fifty plus years.
Growing up in Phnom Penh, her mother was a housewife, her father a government teacher who was generally “good fun” and used to take her fishing. There wasn’t much money she says, and certainly nothing as frivolous as toys in the house. And yet, these early years were pretty comfortable compared to the trials and tribulations that lay ahead.
“My childhood ended at the age of 8”.
Aged just eight years old, Tevy remembers soldiers ordering them out of their home and into the countryside. Everyone was put to work, a situation that saw the family split up. Eventually, she learned that her father had fallen ill and taken to a so-called hospital. He never returned.
During this period, Tevy remembers working in rice fields, before learning that her three sisters had also passed away. The worst thing about it all, she admits, is that she still has no idea where any of her loved ones were buried. However, she is also keen to point out that many Cambodian families at the time went through the same thing. Hence she considers herself “nothing special”.
In the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge era, Tevy lived a busy life of varied experiences. She went to Uzbekistan as part of a Russian government sponsored engineering program. Later, she held down a job as an administrator in Phnom Penh. But none of these experiences matched up to her love of cooking. Like many Cambodians, she’d learned her first dishes at her mother’s knee. Over the years, Tevy got better and better, developing new skills and nurturing her own ideas. Finally, she decided to strike out alone, opening her own restaurant in Phnom Penh.
“I was shocked, distressed and lost! I had nowhere to go”.
At long last Tevy’s situation had stabilised. But then, quite suddenly, she got evicted from her restaurant premises in The National Teacher Training Institute. They wanted to build a library, thus it was game over for the business she’d worked so hard to build up. Homeless and penniless, she found herself living on the street, along with her mother and son. “We had nothing” she says, admitting it was a period of her life that is “too raw and difficult to talk about”.
Disillusioned with her circumstances in the capital, Tevy moved to Siem Reap for a fresh start. It was here that she met Cecil, an Irishman who’d been a customer of hers back in Phnom Penh. Cecil showed great kindness to Tevy, firstly by helping her find a space to sell vegetables in the city’s Old Market.
In time, this morphed into her own street restaurant. With Cecil as her mentor, Tevy’s business blossomed, despite a whole host of ups and downs along the way. And then one day Tevy and Cecil spied a space for rent on Street 26 and decided to snap the place up. Within two weeks, she had Tevy’s Place ready to rumble!
Tevy’s Place, Siem Reap.
That afternoon at Tevy’s Place, we wanted to kick off our feast with a pair of her famous fruit and veg shakes. Having scanned the options, it seemed only right that Sladja go for Tevy’s Green Goddess, a mix of avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, banana, pineapple and lime. Similarly, I felt moved to order Cecil’s Irish Green, a combination of kale, spinach, celery, pineapple, green apple and ginger. Dee-lish.
As a starter, we shared a wonderfully fresh Avocado Salad, served with a tangy vinaigrette and white pepper. Whenever possible, Tevy uses organically sourced ingredients and has, over the years, developed strong partnerships across the Siem Reap community.
She supports local farmers in nearby Chreav Village. Tevy also teams up with a vegetable garden connected to Anjali House, which works with disadvantaged young people. Moreover, she has trusted suppliers at Phsar Leu Market. Keen to rid the streets of plastic and rubbish, Tevy’s Place has also joined forces with several local organisations to take part in clean ups.
Where to Eat and Drink, Siem Reap.
Next up was a plate of rich, soupy Ginger Beef with Vegetables. Hot on its heels, came one of the creamiest bowls of pumpkin soup I’ve ever tasted. No messin’.
After all that, we hardly needed an extra dish, but ordered one anyway. This time a tray of Fried Chicken with Steamed Rice, Salad & Sweet Chilli Sauce. Considering the quality of the dishes, I found myself revisiting the subject of Tevy’s low prices. Why exactly does she leave herself with such slim profit margins?
“My life has been one of scarcity, every penny counts!”
“My background and general view of life impacts not only who I am, but what I do” explains Tevy. She says her low prices and modest profits have inspired loyalty from her customers. Furthermore, she negotiates hard with her suppliers, strives to minimise waste and keeps her costs tightly under control. In the end, she believes everyone benefits.
“As a woman who was deserted by a husband, I see women in Cambodia who have hard lives. Sometimes treated badly by men. Women carry a big workload in families”.
Perhaps most admirable of all, Tevy is a passionate supporter of women. In fact, her all-female team of cooks and waitresses invariably come from troubled backgrounds. Just as Cecil helped her, Tevy wants to mentor those who have been through tough times and give them a chance to turn things around.
Some of her staff were illiterate when they arrived, others physically abused. A job at Tevy’s Place represents not only a stable salary, but the chance for self improvement. One success story is that of Pi Pi, whose job here now sustains her entire family. Best of all, the extended Tevy’s Place family has even helped Pi Pi build her own home. It really is a humbling thought as you sit munching on your spring rolls.
When COVID-19 decimated Siem Reap’s restaurant landscape, Tevy and her team were desperate to fight on. In a new era of social distancing, she began focusing on takeaways and deliveries. Nevertheless, the restaurant itself remained open for those few customers who felt comfortable visiting. That day, I saw a French girl ordering a plate of fries, while an older gentleman tucked into a bowl of noodle soup. As we finished up our meal, two British guys came, asking for spring rolls. Everyone left happy.
Sladja and I really enjoyed meeting Tevy and trying out her delicious food. At that time, she was keen to insist that as difficult as things had been during the pandemic, it definitely wasn’t the worst period she’d been through. Not by a long shot. Rather, she was staying calm and hopeful, focusing on what needed to be done. And above all, staying true to the principles of her business: Quality, Value and Service.
Tevy’s Place, Siem Reap.
Update November 2022: If ever there was a single individual that deserved to come out the other side of the pandemic stronger, it was Tevy. And that is just what she did. In the years that have followed my visit, she has built a brand new kitchen, expanded her menu and even developed a small herb garden at the front of her premises. She has also upped her coffee game with a brand new machine. Seeing a recent photo of Tevy’s place positively bursting with customers makes Sladja and I smile. Well done to Tevy, Cecil and everyone involved with this wonderful Siem Reap restaurant.
To get in touch with Tevy’s Place, head for her Facebook page.
For more on Siem Reap’s excellent cafe, restaurant and bar scene, check out my detailed guide on Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.
You can also read my exhaustive overview of What to See and Do in Siem Reap.
Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.
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These are such great posts Leighton, full of life and interest. I can see you really love the Cambodian people. When we visited I also found them to be some of the kindest people in the world. Loving this series you are writing.
Hey Alison, thanks so much, I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. Just a few more to come and I’ll be changing location again for a while. Hope you are well!
That’s good to hear. All good here thanks 😊
If ever you were looking for a story to make into a book, I think you found one here. Love her smile. But you never mentioned her angel wings and what she does with them while cooking.
Cheers Memo, Tevy’s story is indeed a particularly special one We’re glad we got to meet her and hear her story. It’s great to see that she has thrived somehow when so many other Siem Reap eateries had to close down.
So happy to hear she is still in business! I am always so impressed and inspired by people who can go through such terrible adversity and come out on the other side and make a difference in peoples lives. It would be so easy to give up after what she’s been through, but to make such a positive impact is really special.
Thanks Lyssy, I totally agree with being inspired and amazed by people who can keep on going through such awful hardships. I often wonder how I would get on after suffering such appalling luck and personal tragedies. Thanks for reading this article about Tevy’s Place.
Tevy is a true inspiration of what can arise out of hardship. Despite what was done to her and her family, she has remained compassionate and caring. If anyone deserved to survive Covid it would be her. Her food looks amazing. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan
Absolutely, Allan. To say she has been through a lot would be quite an understatement. She got by thanks to her incredible personal strength. And to quote Ringo Starr, ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’. Cheers for checking out Tevy’s Place!
Hooray for Tevy! She is definitely a testament to hard work and perseverance. The restaurant and food look fantastic. I love these human interest stories, Leighton. I hope you have more!
Thanks Kellye, hooray indeed. Just a few more Siem Reap cafe and restaurant articles to come. Hope all is well with you and Mike in your neck of the woods.
Hope all is well with you and Sladja too! Are you still in Georgia?
Yup, still in Georgia. Now based in the capital, Tbilisi, where I think we’ll remain for the next few months. It’s a pretty place, from what we’ve seen so far. But with all the World Cup games this month I don’t think we’ll do that much exploring. So an extra month needed I think, to make sure we get a better feel for the place.
Such an incredible and strong woman. I love that you wrote these stories about inspiring Khmer women who managed to carry on and persevere. I am glad that Tevy doesn’t have to stand alone and has someone she can count on. Thanks for sharing, these ‘people pieces’ are really important.
Cheers Amelie, I’m so glad you like the series. Thanks for keeping up and continuing to share your thoughts. We are reaching the end now, just a few more to go.
What an inspiring story with a happy ending 😊
Thanks for your comment.
So pleased it all turned out well for her after so many troubled periods. Your food looks delicious and one of those Green Goddess smoothies would definitely be for me!
Thanks for reading about Tevy’s Place, Marion.
So great that Tevy’s survived the pandemic! What a life she has had (just like so many Cambodians). She deserves all the success in the world!
Agree on all fronts Anna, thanks for checking out Tevy’s Place.
It’s another beautiful human story. I came to Siem Reap to visit the historical sites as you did, and you also told the story of the people who live in the town today.
Thanks for the kind words, I’m so glad people are responding to these stories.
What a beautiful example of strength and kindness Tevy is, all the more so with the trials that she has faced and the heartaches she has suffered. I love that her team is all women and that she is the means of them coming out of their own struggles into something better. I love that determination to keep moving forward and growing. And I just love her smile and that she smiles with her whole being. I’m so glad that her place not only survived, but seems to be thriving since. 🙂
She does have an infectious smile. So glad that you got the essence of what makes Tevy and her “Place” so special, Meg. Whatever happens next, I’m confident she and her little eatery will be around for the long haul.
Wow Tevy is such an amazing woman! She really has continued to flourish, even when she has lived through many hardships. She sounds like such a light and great person, and that is amazing how she is continuing to support women in her community. I am glad they are still running after Covid!
Everything you’ve said is on the money, Allie. Thanks for reading about Tevy’s Place and for catching up with recent articles.
Oh my, what an inspirational and courageous woman! I admire people who have suffered greatly but remain positive and always have a smile to share with others. I love that she focuses on healthy, but delicious options too. Thanks for sharing Tevy’s story!
Cheers Tricia! She is a special woman and Tevy’s Place is such an honest, unpretentious restaurant. To see the place so full of customers in the last 6 months or so is just wonderful, I bet she felt a lot of pride. Hope you are both well and gearing up for the winter.
wow. if any of us half suspected this series might be petering out, you have proved us very wrong. keeping tevy’s place up your sleeve at this point in the series is a masterstroke. you could have led with this early on with the likes of wild bar and the ivy guesthouse. there’s not much i can add that others haven’t already said. such an inspiration woman and her restaurant’s success is thoroughly deserved.
Stan, you flatter me. I did indeed want to hold one of the human interest stories back to the second half of the series. Thanks again for your diligence in keeping up with the series and for always reading and commenting with such care. Stay warm out there!
Such an inspiring story and the food looks great too! It might seem a strange thing to say for a restaurant or a cafe, but customers aren’t just interested in food. They want to know your history, why you started your restaurant, what your values are and what your vision is. A great menu and a beautifully decorated restaurant are obviously important, but sharing your restaurant’s story is effective, adding some marketing magic to your mix. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva
You’re right Aiva. I believe that anyone who meets Tevy, hears her story and seems her smile is “sold” on Tevy’s Place pretty quickly. Thanks for reading and for your comment.
Listening to stories and eating is a fantastic combination!! I’ve enjoyed following along on your Siem Reap cafes and restaurants series. The story behind Tevy’s Place and how an act of kindness can make such a huge difference just melted my heart. The food looks so colourful and delicious. I’m so happy to hear that she weathered the pandemic and that Tevy’s Place is still running strong!
Thanks so much Linda. It is a great story, while Tevy is a woman who deserves her success far more than the average walk-in customer will ever know. I appreciate you keeping up with this series!
Brilliant story mate, just wish I could bring our restaurant meal prices down a bit when I read these
Right, if only she could move to London, raise her prices a bit but still undercut everyone else. Thanks for reading about Tevy’s Place, Gary.
Oh wow, Tevy’s story is so touching, as with other stories you’ve posted in this series. She’s so resilient, and I loved reading that she continues to thrive. Thank you for sharing these wonderful posts.
Thanks for stopping by, Natty. I’m so happy I got to share Tevy’s story and that people have enjoyed reading about it.
Now there’s a heart warming story – she is truly a survivor, from whatever life throws at her. Some people really do deserve to succeed.
Thanks for checking out Tevy’s Place, hope all is going well in Jamaica.
A story of overcoming enormous suffering and hardship. It is important to tell such stories which can be an inspiration for us all.
Thanks for stopping by Geoff, it’s wonderful to hear that Tevy’s Place has come through the other side and is buzzing with customers.
Of all of your “good eats” posts in Cambodia, yours on Tevy’s Place really got to me! It’s incredible that Tevy went through so much, yet still remains optimistic about life– and always with a smile! Her food sounds very nutritious and delicious, and her all-woman crew is very inspiring. If there’s one place I need to go eat at in Siem Reap, it’ll definitely have to be Tevy’s!
I had a feeling Tevy’s Place might be the one for you, Rebecca. Thanks for your support of the series, we are edging towards the end now.
What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing this, Leighton.
Thank you for reading! Tevy and her story deserve to be heard.
Cheap and delicious … you don’t find that often! Oh, my heart aches for Tevy’s child years – how dreadful it must it have been for her family to be torn apart. And even when she entered the adult world – really, I can’t comprehend how difficult life must have been for her. But yet … there she is, with her brilliant smile, while taking care of others and making amazing food (love that avocado salad). I am saluting Tevy … you’re right, she deserves nothing but the best.
Thanks Corna, it is impossible not to be moved by this story right? With everything she managed to survive in life, it simply could not be that her livelihood was destroyed by COVID. Sometimes… just sometimes… it works out in the end.
I’ll be sure to eat at Tevy’s place, Leighton, and try some of Khmer delicacies. I do love a story of female solidarity. Tevy is an example of resilience, Cambodia must be full of tales of personal hardship and plight during the Khmer Rouge years, thank you for uncovering and sharing some of them.
Thank ‘you’ Nieves for reading. You are right, Cambodia must be bursting at the seams with amazing stories. And not all of them with outcomes as positive as Tevy’s.
Tevy is the perfect example of what it means to persevere and move mountains. Thank you for this inspiring story!
Thanks Juliet, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Tevy’s Story. Thanks for your contribution to the comment thread!
An inspiring and great post. I love your statement every penny counts.
Hey Joyoni, thanks for leaving a comment. It’s a meaningful statement, but it belongs to Tevy 😉 Thanks for reading about Tevy’s Place!
😊😊😊 You’re welcome!
What a resilient and brave woman who managed not only to survive, but to thrive after such traumatic experiences. Thanks for uncovering and sharing her story with us, Leighton.
Aaah, I’m glad you found this article, Anoush. Tevy is amazing, I hope more and more people get to read/hear about her story, and of course pay Tevy’s Place a visit. Thanks for reading!
good story, great writing