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Bangkok's First Michelin-Starred Street Stall Struggles to Keep up With Newfound Fame

Just a few weeks after the prestigious restaurant guide Michelin bestowed Jay Fai's street food stall in Bangkok a coveted star, she's already struggling to keep up with her business's newfound fame.

Jay Fai was already well-known for her high-end crab omelets before she became the third street vendor in the world to ever be awarded a Michelin Star. The attention that it has brought her Bangkok restaurant has caused enough stress and aggravation to lead her to admit to one local paper, "I wish I could give the star back already."

Despite the high prices - US$15-26 depending on the daily price of crab - for years guests have flocked to her humble stall, waiting up to three hours for their meal. But since being recognized in the first Bangkok edition of the prestigious food guide, the eatery's waiting time (just for customers to find seats) has swelled to more than four hours.

Video via YouTube user Mark Wiens.

Fai has even started to take reservations, with hungry customers lining up before the shop opens. By mid-afternoon on most days, she has to put up a “full house” sign indicating no new guests will be able to be served before the shop closes at 2am. Her daughter had to quit her job to help at the restaurant full-time as well.

The popularity has brought about a range of problems, including increased attention from the Revenue Department reviewing her daily sales ledger for tax collection. And while Jay refuses to abandon hand-cooking every dish or raise prices in fear of losing customers, she had to make the hard decision to drop time-consuming deep fried items from the menu. 

Fai revealed that "the downside is being exhausted.” In addition to serving more diners than before she is also being asked by the government to promote the country through appearances such as participating in an international tennis tournament where she will teach top-ranked players to make her award-winning dishes.

Despite the added stress, Fai is still proud of what she considers a “lifetime achievement award.” The notoriety has helped old friends find and reconnect with the chef. Fai also expressed her joy that Thai chefs are being recognized - as long as she isn’t awarded it again next year.

The added commotion, including tourists flocking for photos, has apparently not negatively impacted the quality of Fai's award-winning dishes. After waiting two hours in line, David Goldman, a tourist from Los Angeles, said: “It was probably the best Thai food I’ve ever had.”

The fame hasn't changed Fai either. As her daughter said: “Before or after Michelin, we see ourselves the same way. Jay Fai is still Jay Fai.” And when “the customers come to us and say that they love our food, we are rewarded a million stars that matter every day.”

Saigoneer also discusses Asia's crop of Michelin-starred street stalls in the first episode of our podcast. Find us on iOS and Android under the name "Saigoneer Podcast."

[Photo via AsiaOne]


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