SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (July 31, 2012) Culinary Specialist Charles Poplin watches a Cambodian woman as she makes a glaze during a subject matter expert exchange at the Starfish Project for Pacific Partnership 2012. (Photo by Kristopher Radder)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (July 30, 2012) – Culinary specialists (CSs) participating in Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) took part in a culinary subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) July 30 at Starfish Bakery in Sihanoukville.

The SMEE was used to exchange techniques such as garnishes and food presentation as well as sanitation. Chief Culinary Specialist Renato Faustino was the officer-in-charge of the SMEE and led a team of eight CSs during the day's events.

"We have been here at Starfish Bakery all day teaching the workers new ways to present their food," Faustion said. "For example, we taught them how to use things like herbs or syrups to enhance the presentation of their foods."

In addition to teaching food presentation methods, the PP12 team also taught the basics of sanitation.

"Today, we performed sanitizing instruction for the people here," Faustino said. "We taught them the importance of hand washing, as well as how to sanitize their tools and work stations. Teaching proper sanitation techniques helps to increase the overall health of both the people working at the bakery as well as the customers they serve."

Starfish Bakery is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works with handicapped and disabled host nation citizens, providing them with jobs and teaching them life skills.

Riikka Knuutila works as the head coordinator for Starfish Bakery.

"I came to Cambodia from Finland about six years ago after a friend insisted I come visit. I immediately fell in love with this country and its people," Knuutila said. "I created this bakery soon afterwards to help give handicapped and disabled people here a chance to work.

"When they come to work for me, I help them learn these skills as well as practice speaking English, which will help them to have better opportunities should they choose to pursue a career," she said.

The PP12 team worked side-by-side with the workers at the bakery to exchange new ideas about food and family recipes.

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class James Peter worked at the SMEE and said he enjoyed teaching the food from his culture to the people of Cambodia.

"The SMEE was important because it allowed us to learn about the way another country eats and thus to learn about the culture of its people," said Peter. "Recipes are passed down from parent to child for generations and to be able to learn from them and shares stories about cooking and our experiences was a very special moment for us all."

The SMEE was one of many events PP12 is taking part in to help create new relationships and build on existing friendships between the crew of PP12 and the people of Cambodia.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is a U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.