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Chef of Chefs

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David Thompson was recently recognized by Miele Guide as the ‘Chef of Chefs 2013’ for his ‘unwavering dedication in documenting, preserving, and executing traditional Thai recipes’

By Laurence Civil

image_1-edittedRestaurant business is an ongoing cycle of life. They have their moment in time but nothing lasts forever, for multiple reasons.

David Thompson opened his first Nahm in 2001 at The Halkin Hotel in London. Six months later it was the first Thai restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star.

In September 2010, he made what some regard as a brave move: open Nahm at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok to both acclaim and controversy. He was obviously doing something right because in April 2012, it became the first restaurant in Thailand to make it onto the “World’s Best 50 Restaurants.”

“The Thai food we are serving in Bangkok is far better than what we could have served in our London restaurant,” David says. “For the past two years, cooking authentic Thai food in London was becoming progressively more frustrating because of the EU ban of fresh Thai herbs and spice.

“We were battling trying to maintain our commitment to 100 percent authenticity with 70 percent of Thai fresh ingredients cut from our menu. The price of holy basil in the U.K. hit a high of £40 a kilo. (Bt1,920). Being starved of the raw materials we need, I was frustrated into closing Nahm in London on Dec. 15, 2012.”

Sad, but life goes on. At the end of January 2013 David was recognized by Miele Guide as the “Chef of Chefs 2013” for his unwavering dedication in documenting, preserving, and executing traditional Thai recipes.

The award recognizes the one chef who has served as a figure of inspiration to his peers over the past year, selected from and by chef candidates from previous issues of the Miele Guide.

David Pooley, chef of Beijing’s Ana restaurant, said that David has “shown us that with sufficient dedication, young chefs can reach the top in any type of cuisine they set their minds to,” while Will Meyrick, chef of Sarong in Bali, cited his “clear vision, patience about what he wants to create, reminding all of us that food is one of the things that can transcend our differences.”

In the opinion of the organizers David embraces the values of The Miele Guide and is an inspiration to us all.

“Running restaurants in London and Bangkok caused me to be over-traveled for 10 years,” he says. “I am pleased that I will now be mainly based in Bangkok with my primary focus being Nahm at The Metropolitan Bangkok.

“There is plenty of life and growth in this restaurant. We will be doing more training and growing our own ingredients on the roof of the hotel. Unlike in London, we can afford a kitchen staff here; business is more sustainable working with chefs who understand the product.”

David is currently developing the Long Chim brand of street food stand-alone restaurants with local partners throughout Asia.

“The first is planned to open in the third to fourth quarter of this year either in Singapore or Hong Kong,” he reveals. “Simple single dish street food made with the best quality ingredients with my painfully uncompromising signature. They will be a place to go for cocktails and snacks to a full-blown meal with any other options in between. It will be simple, accessible, and affordable.”

“Being based in Bangkok has given me the great freedom I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he concludes.