2009 David Thompson
In 2009, we were thrilled to announce David Thompson as our Guest of Honour and Patron. Having cemented a widely acclaimed reputation as a Thai Culinary expert both here and overseas, he made headlines with his first restaurant Darley Street Thai, Sydney in 1991; followed by Sailors Thai, Sydney. In 2001, David opened Nahm at the Halkin Hotel, London to critical acclaim. Just six months later, in 2002, the restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin Star, which it maintains today, making it the first Thai restaurant ever to be awarded a Michelin Star.
Widely acclaimed as an expert on Thai food, for many years David has researched Thai culinary techniques and ancient recipes which has led to a greater appreciation of Thai food in the West.
David was born in 1960 in Sydney, Australia. In 1986 he travelled to Thailand and instantly became enamoured of the country, its people and their culture. A year later he moved to Bangkok. During his stay he met, an elderly women, Khun Sombat Janphetchara, whose mother was attached to one of the palaces of Bangkok and thus heir to a tradition of great culinary refinement. David learnt from her the fundamentals of Thai cookery. Through her, David developed an increasing regard and understanding of Thai cooking, “...it is one of the world's great cuisines, although somewhat unrecognised and often bastardised." he says. The balance of flavours create a cuisine that David considers to be unique and renders other cuisines - at least to him - ordinary by comparison. "Thai food has three levels or tiers: firstly the flavour of the ingredients being used; secondly, their textual components; and, finally, the contrasts of seasoning, that is sweet, sour salty and hot. Thais believe that a meal should strike a balance of flavours, textures and seasonings, called in Thai ‘rot chart' (rot: taste, chart: clear, correct or balanced). A balance in each individual dish and between the dishes that compose the meal, and not only in flavours but also in cooking methods, for example a ideal Thai meal should be composed of several dishes: a curry, a soup, a grilled or deep fried dish, a salad or stir fry and a ‘nahm prik' (a pungent relish that is served with fresh vegetables and other accompanying condiments). There is no set progression or sequence in the Thai meal, all dishes normally arriving at once. The diner chooses, as is his or her preference."
In 1991 David returned to Sydney to open his first restaurant, the Darley Street Thai. The Sydney Morning Herald voted it the ‘Best Thai Restaurant’ every year that Darley Street Thai was open - a staggering eight years in a row. Darley Street Thai was also the only restaurant to be awarded 20/20 by the highly regarded Australian Financial Times.
In May 1993 David relocated his restaurant from Darley Street from insalubrious St Peters to Bayswater Road, Kings Cross. Quirkily, however, he decided to maintain the same name for the new restaurant.
It is his commitment to authentic Thai cuisine that has earned him many accolades from food writers the world over, including American Gourmet critic, Fred Ferretti who wrote when reviewing Darley Street, "What sets Thompson apart from the many farceurs who scramble willy-nilly the tastes and techniques of Asia and the West, is his rigid honesty, his knowledge and his skill and the perfect balance of taste he achieves with his food."
In 1995 David embarked on a new venture in The Rocks, Sailors' Thai. Sailors' which still continues today: is a more informal, relaxing restaurant where the food is less complicated but nonetheless delicious.
During this time David began to collect and translate many old cookbooks, including many memorial books. In an old custom, perhaps unique to Thailand, a small booklet is published at the time of a funeral. In it, the deceased’s habits and hobbies were recounted. Since most Thais love food, favourite recipes were often included – and many of these make their way on to the menu. David has a substantial collection that date back over 100 years.
In 2000, David was awarded the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s Professional of the Year. Yet despite this, David decided to closed Darley Street Thai after 8 successful years and move back to Bangkok. Such was his dedication with the history and intricacies of Thai food he had been asked to consult at the prestigious Suan Dusit Academy in Bangkok, a government-venture Thai cooking institute of some 80 years standing.
At this time David was approached by Christina Ong to open a restaurant in London.
Nahm was launched at the Halkin hotel in July 2001 to great critical acclaim. Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard who wrote one of the very first reviews gave Nahm her highest scoring “David Thompson produces dishes more sagacious, undulating, bewitching and boisterous than any you will find even in Thailand”
In 2002 Nahm was awarded a Michelin star, which it maintains today: making it the first Thai restaurant ever to be awarded a Michelin Star. In 2003 David was voted “outstanding London chef” at London’s leading restaurant awards ceremony: the Tio Pepe ITV restaurant awards.
David has also produced the most comprehensive guide available to authentic Thai cookery with his first book “Thai Food”. Published in late 2001, it has won practically every culinary book award worldwide over the following year, including, the Andre Simon book of the year award, the Glenfiddich cookery book of the year, and Guild of Food Writers in the UK. A James Beard award, an International Association of Culinary Professional award in the US, the Gourmand ‘Foreign Cookbook of the Year’ in France and in Australia, at the World Media Awards, the Jacob’s Creek Award for Best Food Book.
David now spends his time between London, Bangkok and Sydney