David Thompson, foreigners, and Thai cuisine

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A much-discussed story here in Bangkok at the moment is this IHT piece about David Thompson, an Australian chef known for his cuisine at the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant nahm, in London. Thomspon recently opened a branch here in Bangkok.

The lede:

It’s been a rough year for Thailand. First there were the images of deadly street battles between soldiers and protesters beamed around the world. Then people living in neighboring dictatorships snickered that Thailand was a democracy in decline. Foreign tourists wondered whether it was safe to travel here.

And now this: An Australian chef has the audacity to declare that he is on a mission to revive Thai cuisine.

Can non-Thais really understand or appreciate Thai cuisine? Can foreigners actually cook authentic Thai food? Do they even know what “authentic” Thai food tastes like?

For a good summary of the media response to Thompson’s new restaurant, I suggest checking out this post at Siam Voices by Saksith Saiyasombut — whose father, as Saksith’s bio says, was a Thai chef for more than 25 years. The post is called “If you are farang, don’t meddle with Thai politics – or their food!”

I have followed this story with interest because, as you may recall, I put together an audio slideshow (embedded below) for CNNGo last year, when Thompson was in town to give a cooking demonstration.

For what it’s worth, I was impressed by Thompson’s knowledge of Thai cuisine — and culture — and did not find him to be brash in the least. He seems to have a genuine interest in sharing one of the world’s great cuisines with people. And that’s it.

(Emphasis mine.)

Photo credit: Austin Bush.

Published by Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal, based in New Delhi. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I read, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. Join the growing group of readers who get my weekly email newsletter.

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