The Michelin guide is set to end the year with its annual awards ceremony this Dec 16.
Since signing a lucrative five-year contract with the Thai government in 2017, worth around B143.5 million, the French multinational tire company has been ranking restaurants in Bangkok annually. In recent years, it has expanded to Phuket, Phang Na, and Chiang Mai, even though only one restaurant, Pru
, has earned a star outside the capital.
This year, as Covid-19 spread across the globe, causing venues everywhere to close temporarily or permanently, many awards groups, including James Beard, Zagat, and even Michelin California and New York
, have taken a hiatus to respect the hardships that restaurants have faced.
Thailand, however, is still a go.
Despite this being a pandemic-shortened year, which forced restaurants to close for months and barred travelers from visiting Thailand, despite questions remaining as to when, exactly, inspectors were able to dine in an unbiased manner despite the factors listed above—and despite numerous restaurant personnel and suppliers having to take life-changing pay cuts or having lost their jobs outright, making this an odd time to celebrate—the 2021 Michelin star winners will be revealed at a ceremony at the newly opened Four Seasons hotel on Charoenkrung Rd.
Michelin courts its fair share of controversy, though. In 2017, one of France’s most acclaimed chefs, Sebastien Bras, whose Le Suquet à Laguiole had held three Michelin stars since 1999, requested to have his venue removed from the guide and “returned” his stars. Bras at the time expressed his frustration with never knowing when one dish could cost him—or earn him—a star. After acquiescing to Bras’ request in 2018, the guide listed Le Suquet again in 2019 despite his appeals.
According to AFP
, “The 2003 suicide of three-star chef Bernard Loiseau was linked, among other reasons, to speculation that his restaurant was about to lose its three stars.”
Even Bangkok’s street food queen, Jay Fai
, was reportedly ready to hand back her star because of the mounting pressures of high demand, greater numbers of spectators who only came for pictures, and visits from tax department officials with interesting inquiries.
Nevertheless, the Thailand guide has grown in scale each year. In the past three years, Thailand’s total number of Michelin-starred restaurants ballooned from 17 to 29. Last year’s star winners in Thailand
included Table 38, Upstairs, Canvas, and Le Du, while Suhring, Le Normandie, R.Haan, and Sorn claimed two stars each.
Already this year, 17 new restaurants have been added to the country’s tally of Bib Gourmand winners (the Bib Gourmand is, for all intents and purposes, a step below a star).
This year is likely to see the Michelin landscape change yet again and usher in renewed debate about the merits of star winners.