Food: Bangkok buffet! – Hindustan Times

Pop quiz: What’s the best way to celebrate the 50 best restaurants from across the world’s largest continent? Answer: By getting chefs from across countries to cook a 12-course meal, all to be served in one long, delicious evening!

That’s exactly what happened at Le Du restaurant in Silom, Bangkok, a few weeks ago, where seven chefs from award-winning restaurants in Singapore and Thailand came together to celebrate Asia’s best, and each other. These included Chef Pichaya Utarntharm of Potong, Chef Han Li Guang of Labyrinth in Singapore (famous for his chili crab), Johanne Siy of Lolla, Sri Lankan Rishi Naleendra of Cloudstreet Singapore, Dej Kewkacha of Kyo Bar, Sun Kim of Meta and the home chef, Thitid Tassanakajohn aka Chef Thon of Le Du and Nusara.

Prateek Sadhu's (inset) Masque ranked 21 this year
Prateek Sadhu’s (inset) Masque ranked 21 this year

Surprise party

I was an accidental visitor who happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had arrived in Bangkok just the day before and gone through Thailand’s “Covid Test and Go” program. (Government rules necessitated that all international arrivals are to be picked up from the airport in a van, driven to a drive-in Covid test facility, then quarantined in a hotel room for up to 12 hours or until their negative results arrive. Hotels are cheap, but this private pick-up and test cost me as much as half my stay!)

Details of the pre-event dinner
Details of the pre-event dinner

My results came in six hours flat, and as I restlessly entertained myself in my room by over ordering Grab food deliveries (brought to me by the hotel’s security staff, who kept two arms’ distance), I also used the free time to chat with friends.

Manish Mehrotra's (inset) Indian Accent ranked at 22 this year, with sister concern, Comorin, making its entry at 51
Manish Mehrotra’s (inset) Indian Accent ranked at 22 this year, with sister concern, Comorin, making its entry at 51

One of those chance catch-up calls was with one of India’s most respected names in the food industry, noted food critic and author, Rashmi Uday Singh.

“What’re you doing in Bangkok, champ?” she asked in trademark Rashmi style. For those who don’t know, Rashmi is very active and hugely popular on Instagram, where her travels and pleasant demeanor never fails to create a buzz.

Kakka Rotti with traditional Malabar Varutharacha Curry at Masque;  (inset)
Kakka Rotti with traditional Malabar Varutharacha Curry at Masque; (inset)

“Err… I just needed to get away,” I answered.

“Then why don’t you go for Asia’s 50 Best awards? They’re happening in Bangkok day after! ”

Megu's chef Shubham Thakur (inset) collected the surprise award for Megu, which ranked No.  49
Megu’s chef Shubham Thakur (inset) collected the surprise award for Megu, which ranked No. 49

Rashmi Uday Singh has been the India chairperson of the prestigious World’s 50 Best for several years now. Within minutes of our conversation, her counterpart in Thailand, a Mr Litti Kewkacha, had texted me. “The awards are on Tuesday afternoon, but why don’t you join us for dinner tomorrow night at Le Du? Seven chefs from across Singapore and Thailand are coming together to cook one meal! ”

Rashmi Uday Singh
Rashmi Uday Singh

A few minutes later, Chef Thon of Le Du — Asia’s No. 4 restaurant this year — was on the phone, taking down my shellfish allergies and understanding what I can eat, and what I can’t.

The salad at Den
The salad at Den

“For me, marriage is a beautiful journey that needs to be enjoyed every day as partners and as best friends. It is a work in progress that needs to be nurtured with care, love, understanding and a lot of respect for each other. In fact, for me, respect is even more important than love, ”says Jaya.

“I really admire our Indian culture when it comes to marriages,” adds Deepak. “For us, marriages are like a union of families, their customs and cultures, and mutual respect for all of that. I’m very happy to say that our families get along very well and they are fully supportive of all our decisions. I had always been very clear that I would marry a girl of my choice and my parents have always respected that. For me, respect, care and love are the basis of a relationship and I’m happy that our relationship complies with all this. ”

Before it became clear that Deepak’s injury would keep him out of the IPL, the couple had planned to marry after the season ended. Though they have time now because Deepak is not working this season, they have decided not to move up their wedding festivities.

“We are planning to have our wedding in June after the IPL ends and we are sticking to this plan,” says Deepak. “As this will be a very important day in our lives, we want to celebrate with our families and friends. And the wedding will take place in Agra — the city of love and my home. ”

There will be a reception to follow the wedding, but that may be held in another city, says Jaya.

After they marry, the couple intends to settle in Jaipur, where they plan to build their own house. “I have been playing for Rajasthan, have spent most of my childhood there and have stayed more in Jaipur than in Agra,” says Deepak. “I don’t like Delhi at all and Agra doesn’t suit Jaya for her work. But Jaipur is perfect for both of us. People know me there and we will remain close to both our families. ”

Partners and persons

A life in Jaipur may also mean somewhat less intrusiveness from the paparazzi and over-eager fans — issues that Jaya likely has to learn to cope with.

“As far as the female fans are concerned, I am not worried at all. It’s for Deepak to handle them, ”Jaya says confidently. “And as far as being tagged as a WAG [the sexist Wives and Girlfriends label given to the spouses and significant others of male sportspeople] is concerned, well, I have my own identity and personality. I have no issue with being referred to as Deepak’s wife as that’s what I’m going to be, but my profile doesn’t end there. I have already started my own venture to develop a gaming ecosystem where fans are elevated from being spectators to becoming engaged team players making strategic decisions by leveraging real world sports knowledge. In fact, I am just beginning to develop the first app, which will have cricket at its core. ”

Deepak is horrified by the thought of Jaya being reduced by the media to a WAG.

“I would never want my wife to be known by my name,” he says firmly. “She has her own identity as an entrepreneur. It is the media that is responsible for how people refer to the spouses of sportspeople. Most wives and girlfriends of cricketers are independent working women. For example, Anushka Sharma, who is married to Virat Kohli, has her own identity. That’s how I want my wife to be known. ”

From HT Brunch, May 21, 2022

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Quail terrine, grilled greens and salted plum served on crispy chicken skin at Gaa Restaurant
Quail terrine, grilled greens and salted plum served on crispy chicken skin at Gaa Restaurant

The peals of laughter that evening are relentless, going quiet only when a new course of food arrives, with an award-winning chef humbly explaining his dish. The shrimp paste has been painstakingly replaced by Chef Thon, and my co-diner, Chef Guang is serving me “faux crab meat”.

Indian Accent's Rohit Khattar
Indian Accent’s Rohit Khattar

At the table and on full display is a sense of humor, camaraderie, encouragement and humility, all of which are the pillars of a good hospitality professional.

The Petit Chou at Odette
The Petit Chou at Odette

Also at the table is India’s brightest young chef and HT Brunch columnist, Prateek Sadhu, who I have admired and encouraged, but met only for the second time today.

At other tables are Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf of The Table, Mumbai, whose restaurant surprised them by breaking into the Top 100 of Asia’s Best list this year, Indian Accent’s Rohit Khattar, Chef Himanshu Saini of Tresind Studio and Ministry of Crab’s Darshan Munidasa .

Darshan Munidasa's Ministry of Crab ranked No.  35 on this year's list of Asia's top restaurants
Darshan Munidasa’s Ministry of Crab ranked No. 35 on this year’s list of Asia’s top restaurants

India for the win

Cut to the actual awards function held in an Academy Awards-style ballroom at the Pullman King Power Hotel. The man behind the World’s 50 Best brand, William Drew, is in great spirits as he welcomes everyone back to an on-ground event to celebrate the best of the best. But the one group of people who seem the happiest in the room are the chefs and restaurateurs from India.

While three Indian restaurants feature in the Top 50 this year — seven others make it to the Top 100, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

Seafood Macadamia Nut Curry at Garima Arora's Gaa, which ranked 33rd
Seafood Macadamia Nut Curry at Garima Arora’s Gaa, which ranked 33rd

Interestingly, Chef Prateek Sadhu’s Masque pipped Indian Accent to the post, becoming the top Indian restaurant this year at No.21. Indian Accent followed at No. 22. But all was not lost for India’s favorite fine-dining place, for Indian Accent’s sister concern, Comorin, made its entry on the 51 to 100 list.

At No. 49 appeared Megu by the Leela Palace, filling the position Wasabi had left vacant a few years ago. Young chef Shumbham Thakur beamed as he collected the surprise award.

Shrimp dumplings at Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf's (below) The Table in Mumbai, which ranked 85
Shrimp dumplings at Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf’s (below) The Table in Mumbai, which ranked 85

The seven other Indian restaurants included Karavali, Bangalore, at No. 59, Bukhara, New Delhi, at No. 66, Comorin, Gurugram, at No. 69, Dum Pukht, New Delhi, at No. 73, Avartana, Chennai, at No. 79, American, Mumbai, at No. 80 and The Table, Mumbai, at No. 85.

As chefs, restaurateurs and foodies partied their way into the night, one could not help marvel at the camaraderie these “competitors” shared with each other. It just showed how hospitality is an industry full of pleasant people who want to make a living out of making people happy. Here’s to more of that !.

Follow @JamalShaikh on Instagram and Twitter

From HT Brunch, May 21, 2022

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