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36 Hours Siem Reap, Cambodia

Join us — food and travel photographer David Hagerman, whose clients include the New York Times and Saveur; award-winning food blogger, writing coach and author of Will Write for Food Dianne Jacob; and food journalist, cookbook author and publisher of the award-winning food-travel blog EatingAsia Robyn Eckhardt — in Siem Reap this June for a deep dive into the crafts of food photography and writing.

Following our first photography and writing workshop last autumn in Alacati, on Turkey’s Cesme peninsula, we thought about how to improve on a good thing. We learned that most participants prefer not only to learn but to do, want to gain real insights into local food culture and hope to leave with something solid to show for their efforts during the workshop. So for this workshop in Cambodia — home to one of Asia’s least understood cuisines — we added extra culinary experiences and producer visits, increased the amount of consultation time with instructors, and carved time for participants to formulate and work on a visual and/or written project of their own choosing.

Combine this with a full day of group instruction; private consultations with David and Dianne for participants to use as they wish; photography demonstrations, coaching and hands-on practice out in the field and in the kitchen; culinary reporting and writing tips and exercises; and opportunities to share work in a supportive collaborative environment and you have an immersive food photography and writing workshop unlike any other out there.


Our aim is to use our short time together to help you build and flex skills as a culinary storyteller. You’ll work hard, and maybe even venture a bit outside your comfort zone. But you’ll be working with experienced instructors eager to share what they know, and you’ll be surrounded and buoyed by a group of enthusiastic, like-minded photographers and writers.

Good eating is, of course, a given. Cambodia’s cuisine is often reduced to comparisons with those of its neighbors, but it is every bit as notable in its own right. We’ll explore local ingredients and dishes in depth and in many guises, eating everything from street fare and traditional home cooking to modern interpretations of Cambodian dishes by foreign and Cambodian chefs.

We will convene in the city of Siem Reap, best known as the jumping off point for Angkor Wat but also home to vibrant food markets, fabulous street food and an exciting, often sophisticated restaurant scene. We’ll stay at a small, comfortable hotel with a mid-century vibe featuring a swimming pool, that’s walkable to everything. Instruction will be held across the street in a seminar room that will be open to participants as a work space and/or meeting room for the duration of the workshop.

Choice Tables Siem Reap Cambodia

We’ll open the workshop with a casual dinner of Cambodian home-style fare, at a private home in town, and follow with a full day of instruction. Then we’ll get an in-depth look at Cambodian ingredients — and do a lot of photographing — during a market tour and producer visits and a visit to an organic farm. Participants will brainstorm and hash out with Dianne, David and Robyn ideas for short personal projects — photo, text, or both — and devote most of one day to pursuing them, with the optional help of an English-speaking tuk-tuk driver and guide. We’ll also learn to cook Cambodian fare with one of Siem Reap’s most interesting Cambodian chefs.  Towards the end of the workshop particpants will begin meeting David and Dianne one-on-one, for 30 minutes each, for career coaching, portfolio consultation, or to talk about whatever they wish.

This workshop is limited to a maximum of 9 participants. We welcome non-participant partners at an additional cost (see our Accomodations and Costs page for details), who will join us for all meals — but not for writing, photography or cooking instruction or market tours/producer excursions.


WORKSHOP SCHEDULE (Participants will receive a more detailed schedule closer to workshop date. We reserve the right, in the event of circumstances beyond our control, to change the schedule without notice but we will of course endeavour to maintain the substance of the workshop.)

Friday, June 3 2016 — Introductions and Dinner

Check-in by late afternoon to the hotel

We’ll take tuk-tuks to a private home outside the center of the city, where we’ll get to know each other over drinks and a dinner of home-cooked Cambodian specialties.

Saturday, June 4 — Instruction and Workshops

Breakfast is served at the hotel from 7 am.

9 – 10 am
Robyn Eckhardt: No matter where you travel (and even if you stay at home) there are unique culinary stories waiting to be told. Learn how to zero in on a topic, identify a unique angle, identify the personalities who will give your story spark and research and report both on location and remotely, after you’ve left.

10 -10:30 am Coffee and tea break.

10:30 am -12:30 pm
Dianne Jacob: What makes a great story? Learn ways to open, build suspense, and take readers on a journey. The best nonfiction reads like cinematic fiction, so we’ll cover scenes, dialog and other devices used by novelists. Exercises help you sharpen your skills, including how to interview subjects for profiles.

12:30 -2:00 pm Non-participating partners will join us for lunch at Pages Café.

2:00 – 3:30 pm Free time.

3:30 – 5:30 pm
David Hagerman on visual storytelling: How does a photographer conceive, execute and edit a compelling culinary photo essay? David will tell how to get your bearings in an unfamiliar setting, pinpoint a topic, build a story arc and develop a shot list, while touching upon techniques for photographing food, landscapes and people to help you build your story.

7:00 pm – Dinner: Modern Cambodian dishes at Mie Café, where we’ll meet chef Pola Siv.

Sunday, June 5 — Market and Producer Visits, Story Shaping

7am – 12pm and 8am – 1pm

We’ll break into two groups for an intensive introduction to Cambodian ingredients and street food with Siem Reap Food Tours. Khmer speakers and seasoned Cambodia residents chef Steven Halcrow and writer Lina Goldberg will walk you around Siem Reap’s largest market, pointing out Cambodian pantry staples and introducing you to Cambodian breakfast dishes. There will be lots of opportunities for photography, either on your own or with David. After the market we’ll visit a family of artisan producers of a favorite Cambodian noodle, which you’ll try freshly made and then in a staple Cambodian dish at a nearby shop.

12 noon / 1:00 – 3:00 pm – Break. Participants can use this time to brainstorm possible story and/or photo essay ideas.

3:00 – 5:15 pm

Story Shaping Sessions: Participants will take turns, for 15 minutes each, pitching story and/or photo essay ideas to Dianne, David and Robyn, who will offer feedback and suggestions. By the end of their session each participant will have decided on a story to shoot or get a start on researching during free time over the next couple of days.

6pm – Al fresco dinner at a Cambodian-run restaurant in town serving traditional specialties (such as fire ants) and tapas-style modern Cambodian dishes.

Monday, June 6 — Farm Visit and Cooking, Talking Food Writing Trends

7 am Tuk-tuk with Pola Siv of Mie Café to a farm outside the city. We’ll talk about farming and agriculture in Cambodia and take advantage of the morning light to make plenty of in-the-field images. Then we’ll head to Mie Café where, with chef Pola’s help, you’ll prepare Cambodian dishes for lunch. Return to the hotel around 1:00 p.m.

2 – 4 pm  Group meet with Dianne Jacob: What are the trends in food writing today — whether freelancing, blogging or authoring cookbooks? We’ll discuss what’s new in pay, styles, ethics and ingenuity.

4-630 pm Free time.

6:30pm – Tuk-tuk to a shop specializing in a local noodle soup where the English-speaking maker, who raises his own animals and grows his own vegetables will talk about how he does what he does, answer your questions and — maybe — reveal the secret to his delicious specialty.

Tuesday, June 7 — Working Your Own Story, Private Photo and Writing Consults

Breakfast is served at the hotel from 7 am.

Today students are mostly free to work on on their photo essays and/or stories. Tuk-tuks with English-speaking drivers will be made available, and Robyn and David will be be available for consultation throughout the day.

5 – 730 pm Participants will begin private consultations with David and Dianne to discuss topic of their choice. Earlier in the week each participant will have signed up for one 30-minute consult with each instructor.

8:15pm – Tuk-tuk to award-winning Cuisine Wat Damnak, where we’ll celebrate a productive few days and new friendships over award-winning chef Joannes Riviere’s set menu of contemporary Cambodian dishes. Cocktails, wine and beer included.

After dinner we’ll convene to share our work, recent or not. Slideshows (those who wish to should give David 10 images by 4pm) and readings.

Wed June 8 — Consults Continue and Check-out

Breakfast is served at the hotel from 7 am.

930 – 1130 am. Individual consults with Dianne and David continue.

12:00 Check-out and good-byes.

Cuisine Wat Dam Nak, Siem Reap, Cambodia