When you think about Thailand, you probably think about exotic beach resorts, award-winning spas, temples, the bedlam of Bangkok, night markets, plentiful shopping and endless food stands. In the future, you might also add stars to that list, as in Michelin stars. At what once was a skyscraper abandoned during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, there may soon be a home to more Michelin stars than any other single location in the world, or at least that’s the plan.
When the French dining guide published its first-ever ratings of Bangkok’s restaurants last December, Mezzaluna, which sits atop State Tower, was one of only two restaurants to be awarded two stars. No restaurants in the guide received three stars. Today the building is home to two luxury hotels and 10 bars and restaurants, including the world’s highest outdoor whiskey bar. Its al fresco Sky Bar is a favorite on Instagram, and you may remember the hotel from the movie The Hangover II. So while Mezzaluna’s Chef Ryuki Kawasaki is working on achieving a magical third star, Lebua’s CEO Deepak Ohri has set his sights on adding more stars as well.
Vincent Thierry, who led Caprice at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong to three Michelin stars, recently joined Lebua, although it has not been officially announced. He will open a 21-seat chef’s table restaurant this fall. A combination of tables for four and a counter will provide every diner a bird’s eye view of the kitchen. But, that’s just the start. During a visit to New York with Kawasaki and Thierry, Ohri told Forbes.com two more chefs who have led Michelin star winning kitchens are slated to come aboard. Stars are awarded to the restaurant, not the chef, although ratings often rise and fall based on who’s behind the stove.
Ohri claims having Michelin in Thailand is already paying off. He says since Mezzaluna gained its recognition from the guide, there is a waiting list for reservations with more than two-dozen international calls daily from as far away as London and Los Angeles. Culinary experiences are now big business. In Indonesia, the government wants to turn Bali into a mecca for foodies, noting that elevated dining attracts higher spending tourists. Research from the government of Ontario in Canada noted that food driven visitors are more likely to post on social media, helping entice friends and followers to also go. A survey by Expedia of Danish travelers showed 20% made destination selections based on food as the “reason to go” while Skift reports a stunning U.S. 39 million leisure travelers choose a destination based on “culinary activities.”