David Thompson made a name for himself at Darley Street Thai in Sydney, which he opened on his return from several years living and working in Bangkok. Then, moving to the other side of the world, he opened Nahm at London’s Halkin Hotel in 2001, which was awarded a Michelin star within six months, the first Thai-food restaurant ever to receive such an accolade.
Thompson was named Professional of the Year by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide in 2001 and London Chef of the Year at the Carlton Evening Standard Food Awards in 2003.
In September 2010 Thompson took his first professional step into the land that inspired him, opening Nahm at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok to both acclaim and controversy. In April 2012 it was the first restaurant in Thailand to make it onto the list of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants.
At the end of last month he was recognised by the Miele Guide as Chef of Chefs 2013 for his unwavering dedication to documenting, preserving and executing traditional Thai recipes. The award recognises 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.
Chef David Pooley of Beijing’s Ana restaurant said Thompson has “shown us that, with sufficient dedication, young chefs can reach the top in any type of cuisine they set their minds to”. Chef Will Meyrick of Sarong in Bali cited his “clear vision and patience about what he wants to create, reminding us that 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 organisers, Thompson embraces the values of the Miele Guide and is an inspiration to all.
“The Thai food we are serving here in Bangkok is far better than we can serve in our London restaurant,” Thompson says. “For the past two years, cooking authentic Thai food in London has been nearly impossible due to the EU ban on fresh Thai herbs and spices. The implication has been that we have had 70 per cent of Thai fresh ingredients cut from our menu. Produce-sourcing became very challenging, as we are 100 per cent committed to the authenticity of our dishes.”
As part of the inaugural Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants Awards being held at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Thompson will be a guest speaker at the Chef’s Workshop on February 24. He’ll talk about Thai street food and how changes in demographics in Bangkok in the 1960s turned a largely Chinese style of eating into a national phenomenon.
“Eating on the street is the easiest and cheapest of ways to enjoy Thai food,” he says. “Everything is prepared fresh daily and the food stalls are packed every night. It is a vending style of food that has survived.”
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