Australian Chef: Thai Cuisine is ‘Decaying’

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  09.24.10 | 3:43 PM ET

Them’s fighting words. The chef in question, David Thompson, is responsible for London’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Nahm, and now he’s “striving for authenticity” at a Nahm branch in Bangkok, too. The Thai reaction has been predictably indignant. The New York Times explains:

Cooking is profoundly wound up with Thailand’s identity. Many recipes were tested and refined in royal palaces. And Thais often spend a good share of their day talking about this or that dish they tried; a common greeting is, “Have you eaten yet?”

Mr. Thompson’s quest for authenticity is perceived by some Thais as a provocation, a pair of blue eyes striding a little too proudly into the temple of Thai cuisine. Foreigners cannot possibly master the art of cooking Thai food, many Thais say, because they did not grow up wandering through vast, wet markets filled with the cornucopia of Thai produce, or pulling at the apron strings of grandmothers and maids who imparted the complex and subtle balance of ingredients required for the perfect curry or chili paste. Foreigners, Thais believe, cannot stomach the spices that fire the best Thai dishes.

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

1 Comment for Australian Chef: Thai Cuisine is ‘Decaying’

Caitlin @ Roaming Tales 09.25.10 | 2:02 PM ET

No one wants to be told their cultural institutions are waning but David Thompson knows what he’s talking about. He has dedicated his life to Thai cooking, spent much of his life in Thailand and, I believe, his wife is Thai. (Not 100% sure on that last point). For Thais to dismiss him because he’s a “foreigner” is arrogant. We wouldn’t accept the same comment from the French about French cooking!

PS This is about attempt #5 due to wonky CAPTCHAs and the site shutting me out after I got it wrong a few times. Fingers crossed!

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