Michelin Launches First Edition of Famed Restaurant Guide in Bangkok

Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on December 6, 2018

Millions of tourists travel to Thailand and many of them solely for its famed cuisine. From street food to high-end restaurants, Bangkok has something offer for every palette. Now the Michelin Guide is about to reveal its list of the top spots for the city and Channel NewsAsia’s Thailand Correspondent Saksith Saiyasombut has sampled the appetite for the upcoming reviews.

TRANSCRIPT

It’s no secret that good food can be found in Bangkok almost anywhere, at almost any time, and for any budget.

Whether it's from a street vendor or from a fine dining restaurant.

But that hasn’t always been the case: Chef Norbert Kostner came to the city 50 years ago, when the restaurant scene was just beginning...

NOBERT KOSTNER; Former Executive Chef Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok:
"They got nothing imported, it was already difficult to find a potato. It’s already difficult to find some cream for cooking. And nothing, there was…I think a Wiener Schnitzel was a specialty these times, because it was really the beginning. When I came here, it was the beginning of the tourism coming."

But now the city, known for its culinary diversity, has  caught the attention of the inspectors of the Michelin Guide.

SAKSITH SAIYASOMBUT; Bangkok, Thailand:
“The Michelin Guide didn’t actually start out as a guide to fine dining. At the beginning of the 20th century, two French brothers, Édouard and André Michelin published a guide for car owners in France, giving useful information about petrol stations, mechanics, hotels and restaurants.  The idea was simple - they owned a tyre company and they wanted car owners to leave home and drive more around France. Today, the Michelin Guide has become a yardstick for high-quality cuisine, and chefs in the foodie metropolis of Bangkok are eagerly waiting to see which restaurants have made it into the prestigious list.”

Accompanied by a large marketing campaign with  Thai tourism authorities, the French tyre company hopes to put its mark on the city’s restaurant scene with its famed star ratings and a spot on its Bib Gourmand list.

But not every chef believes a Michelin star - or two or three - will make a big impact on  established eateries.

DANIEL BUCHER; Senior Executive Sous Chef, Marriott Marquis Hotel Bangkok:
"Bangkok is already a city with lots of food travelers, Bangkok is already a city with heavy food traffic. But at the same time, I do think the trend effect and the fast pace of Bangkok will kind of wear off the effect of a Michelin star pretty quickly. And if the places that everyone regards as the top places in town have a star or not - I don’t think that makes a huge difference!"

Not everyone will agree.  Some say the guide will motivate chefs and restaurants to aim higher... but  Michelin stars or not, Bangkok will no doubt continue to draw in foodies to the table.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok