When you go to a restaurant, what are the things you notice? For most, it will probably be the quality of the food, then you'll take a look around at the decor, have a sticky-beak in the bathrooms and maybe comment on the ambience inside the dining room.
But how often do you stop and think about the people who work there? Sure, you might pay attention to how friendly the waitress is, but do you ever top to think about how she got there? And what about the kitchen staff, chefs and dishwashers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure your night is memorable?
At KOTO, it is these people who will leave a lasting impression. You see, KOTO is a not-for-profit hospitality training organisation that is changing the lives of street and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.
Behind the scenes
There are two KOTO restaurants, one in Hanoi and one in Saigon. KOTO Hanoi was founded in 2000 by Australian, Jimmy Pham. What started as a small sandwich shop has grown to become a 120-seat restaurant.
KOTO trainees enter the unique 24-month program as timid, shy teenagers and leave as well-rounded, responsible citizens who are ready to embrace the challenges that lie ahead. The aim of the KOTO program is to combine hospitality and English-language training with the development of life skills.
Most Peregrine trips that visit Hanoi and Saigon visit KOTO. Everyone who has the pleasure of experiencing a meal there comes back raving. Our Search and Social Media Co-ordinator, Leigh, just came back and thoroughly enjoyed his experience.
"My girlfriend Sarah and I went to both KOTO restaurants on a recent trip to Vietnam, and we were absolutely blown away," he said.
They had initially expected KOTO to be more of a training restaurant, but what they found was a fully-functioning, high class restaurant.
"We stumbled upon the first KOTO, and it was like a little oasis among the craziness of Saigon. The food was incredible, with amazing presentation. The standard blew our expectations out of the water."
Leigh said the one of the main things he remembers is the pride that all the kids took in their work.
"Every person we spoke to had a smile on their face, and they were so professional. They were all really keen to practice their English, and we had lots of great conversations. We even tried out a little of our Vietnamese, which they found amusing!"
How you can help
On Monday 5 December, there will be a KOTO fundraising event at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins. It will be a fabulous cocktail party, with a focus on amazing food and drinks. You'll get to meet two graduates of KOTO, enjoy a jazz band and take part in auctions and raffle prizes.
Among the auction items is 2 spots on the 17-day Highlights of Vietnam tour thanks to Peregrine. Bid on this fantastic item and you could find yourself meeting the kids of KOTO and experiencing it all for yourself.
Take a look through all our trips to Vietnam and find the one that inspires you. Order a FREE brochure or read one online. Then sign up to our monthly eNews for trip updates, competitions, inspiring articles and more.