Big investment in Michelin Guide draws flak, praise

THE launching of the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 last week has stirred up comments everywhere on and offline with questions as to whether it’s worth the investment and how the automobile tire is linked to the food.
The Bangkok culinary landscape has become exciting overnight with Michelin accolades dished out to 17 establishments.

Among the most talked about is Jay Fai (named after the lady chef-owner of the street food shophouse restaurant), who was awarded one Michelin star and not the three highest accolade two stars establishments like the progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan, Le Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and Mezzaluna at Lebua Hotel. The reason is that Jay Fai is one of Bangkok’s famous street food establishments.

Jay Fai shophouse restaurant

Already renowned as a street food destination (CNN ranks Bangkok as one of the world’s best cities for street food), Bangkok is the seventh Asian territory to be rated by Michelin.

It has now risen up to join the likes of Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong/Macau.

The winners of Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 were announced in a gala dinner at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, following in the footsteps of Singapore.

Michelin awarded 14 restaurants one star, highlighting the quality of local cuisine, as seven of them – Jay Fai, Bo.lan, Nahm, Saneh Jaan, Chim by Siam Wisdom, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin and Paste – offer Thai food. The others are Japanese eatery Ginza Sushi ichi, three French establishments – L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, J’Aime by Jean-Michel Lorrain, Savelberg – as well as Sühring, Elements and Upstairs at Mikkeller.

Sühring Bangkok restaurant

But lots of criticisms have focused on the fact that the Michelin Guide came to Thailand because the Tourism Authority of Thailand did have to dangle a reported 144 million baht ($4.4 million) partnership to get them here.

However, many opined that it is worth the move since the 144 million is not just for Michelin to look for top restaurants in Bangkok but it is for Michelin to spend the next four years to search for the best restaurants throughout Thailand and to revisit to reevaluate them from time to time to uphold their rating standards.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports says that this move will increase tourist numbers into the country with higher spending on food.

Sun Kyo stated in his comment on this topic on a Facebook page: “Bangkok is not only the city for travel, business and finance, but it’s also the city of gastronomy: an amazing vibrancy, myriad new restaurants, an astonishing variety of wonderful street food.
“The Michelin ratings will help strengthen the entire tourism sector, especially in gastronomy as Bangkok competes with other huge metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, London and New York.
“Gastronomy generated around 20% of total tourism income in Thailand.”

Gaggan Indian restaurant

As to how an automobile tire is connected to food, history has it that to boost the demand for cars and, accordingly, car tires, car tire manufacturers and brothers Édouard and André Michelin published the first edition of a guide for French motorists, the Michelin Guide.

The brothers printed nearly 35,000 copies of this first, free edition of the Michelin Guide, which provided useful information to motorists, such as maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, car mechanics listings, hotels, and petrol stations throughout France.

Four years later, in 1904, the brothers published a guide to Belgium similar to the Michelin Guide. They later found out that motorists were more interested in dining guide than anything else.

In 1926, the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments. Initially, there was only a single star awarded. Then, in 1931, the hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was introduced.

Finally, in 1936, the criteria for the starred The Michelin Guide, first published in France more than a century ago to promote automobile travel, now covers 28 countries and is the world’s most-recognized restaurant reference guide.

The Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 will make Thailand the second country in Southeast Asia after Singapore and the sixth in Asia to have its own culinary reference, which will be available in both print and digital versions and can be viewed at in English and Thai.


Top: Le Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

First in-text: The interior of street food shophouse restaurant Jay Fai. Photo: Krista (CC-BY.2.0)

Second in-text: Sühring Bangkok German restaurant in Sathorn area. Photo:

Third in-text: Progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan in Soi Langsuan,.

By Kowit Sanandang