Your culinary adventure can be immensely immersive, dining in outlets driven by philanthropic aims in Ho Chi Minh city. Some dining experiences can take on a whole new meaning. Dedicated to uplifting the lives of disadvantaged groups, these social enterprise outfits employ and provide culinary-hospitality training to street children, orphans and those with disabilities.

Koto Saigon – A Training Restaurant

Founder Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-Australian on his first visit to Vietnam in 1996, was struck by the plight of street children. He set out to ask some of them what they wanted out of life, to which they replied: “We need skills so we can find stable jobs.” That sparked his concept for Koto (“Know One, Teach One”), a not-for-profit social enterprise aimed at transforming the lives of at-risk and disadvantaged youths through a holistic training programme.

Jimmy Pham, creator of KOTO (Know One Teach One) poses with a group of his students at their training center in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Students learn English, culinary and hospitality management and life skills (healthy living, personal financing, first aid and communication, among others) Koto started in Hanoi as a small sandwich shop with only nine trainees in 1999; the first restaurant opened a year later, and another in Saigon in 2010. Almost a thousand young people have graduated from Koto, with about 200 in training.

Both training restaurants which serve as venues for trainees to practice their hospitality skills also partially sponsors the training programme. Every six months, 40 disadvantaged youths (16-22 years old) are recruited and after graduating from two years of training, they are able to work in five-star hotels, resorts and restaurants in Vietnam and overseas.

Traditional Vietnamese, Southeast Asian and Western

Signature dishes:
The Set Met is a crowdpleaser for a two-person date. It comprises of seven dishes: stuffed pork, beef roll, green mango salad, crispy duck wontons, salt and pepper frogs, pork satay, and lotus fried rice

A three-course set lunch is priced at 98,000 Vietnamese dong.

Koto is located at 19 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Da Kao Ward, District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. For reservations, contact +84 28 3822 9357 or visit their website.

Also Check Out

Bloom Restaurant Saigon, a non-profit restaurant that provides culinary training for orphaned and disadvantaged children around Vietnam operated by Aid for Children Without Parents at Ward Dakao, District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Text by Angela Goh

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