The Bangkok-based chef’s respect for traditional Thai dishes, as well as his skill in cooking them, has won him an international array of admirers
Irreverent and self-deprecating as he is, David Thompson doesn’t really do earnest or heartfelt, but when it comes to the cooking of Thai food, the highly respected chef could not be more serious. As anyone who has worked under him at his various restaurants in Sydney, London, Bangkok or Singapore will testify, Thompson is an exacting perfectionist whose knowledge of ingredients, techniques and culinary history is daunting in its scholastic depth.
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, he was trained in classical French cooking and worked in a number of professional kitchens before a revelatory visit to Thailand in the late 80s changed his world. He fell in love with the country and its people, as well as the food, prompting his first spell living and working in what is now the 55-year-old’s adopted home.
Returning to Sydney he opened Darley Street Thai, which became the most feted Thai restaurant outside of Thailand of the 1990s – a trick he repeated the following decade in London with Nahm in The Halkin hotel, the first ever Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Thompson’s reputation for authentic research-driven recipes was cemented with the publication of the seminal Thai Food in 2002, and enhanced by the popular follow-up, Thai Street Food, in 2010.
But it was the successful opening of Nahm in Bangkok itself in 2010 that marked Thompson’s elevation to culinary greatness. The restaurant, situated within the stylish Metropolitan Hotel, adheres strictly to traditional Thai recipes and ingredients, never compromising on quality or, indeed, its dishes’ heat. The result is an international dining destination that remains the benchmark for high-end cooking in Asia; a former Best Restaurant in Asia and the launchpad for many successful chefs’ careers.
In recent years he has also devised a more accessible, populist street food concept, Long Chim, with branches in Singapore and Perth and others to follow in Sydney and Hong Kong. While at his happiest in the kitchen, Thompson has successfully raised the profile of Thailand’s cuisine across all levels – from vibrant street fare to the luxurious dishes of the royal palaces. But his ongoing legacy is most tightly bound up with his flagship restaurant in the country’s capital, where he has nurtured numerous talents, fought for the preservation of ancient recipes and values, and stuck to his passionate beliefs with the zeal of the converted.
Watch Chef Thompson's reaction to winning the award:
Now read the Chef's take on his 30 years of Thai food.
27 South Sathorn Road
Thung Maha Mek
+66 2 625 3333
02-02 Atrium 2 The Shoppes
Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
+65 6688 7299
Portrait: Christopher Kennedy; video: Diners Club International