The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

“Iam hav­ing a chicken fat drama!” yells famed Aus­tralian chef David Thomp­son over the in­creas­ingly loud noise in the kitchen of his new Thai street-food restau­rant in Perth. “Just hold the line for a se­cond. I am just dash­ing around like some mad-crazed id­iot. We just opened for lunch to­day and oh my God.”

The line abruptly goes dead and I am left think­ing that WISH may fail to in­ter­view the Thai food ex­pert, who has re­turned to Aus­tralia af­ter 14 years to open Long Chim. But then, just like that, he is back. “What were we do­ing the in­ter­view about?” he asks gin­gerly, af­ter shout­ing more or­ders to his chefs. “About the lovely new restau­rant you have just opened,” I re­mind him. “It’s not lovely,” Thomp­son fires back, laugh­ing, “it’s killing me!”

It is no sur­prise that Thomp­son’s restau­rant has been a bit busy since it opened in late Novem­ber. The open­ing of the base­ment eatery in the newly re­stored State Build­ings in Perth’s CBD (see our ho­tel story on page 76) marks a vic­to­ri­ous home­com­ing for the chef. He opened Nahm in Lon­don in 2001, which was the first Thai restau­rant in Europe to re­ceive a Miche­lin star; then a se­cond Nahm in Bangkok, which in 2014 was named the best restau­rant in Asia; and then ven­tured into street food, open­ing his first Long Chim eatery in Sin­ga­pore.

“It was op­por­tu­nity, re­ally,” says Thomp­son, asked what drew him to Perth, along with the avail­abil­ity of the pro­duce that means he could fi­nally cre­ate au­then­tic Thai street food in Aus­tralia. “The streets of Bangkok are the part of Thai­land that I love the most,’’ he says. “I want to cap­ture that char­ac­ter, the pace and the flavour of the city. Quite sim­ply, Long Chim is my Bangkok in Perth.”

So how did a Syd­ney man trained in clas­si­cal French cook­ing end up be­com­ing a world au­thor­ity on Thai food? (That’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion: he was in­vited by the Thai govern­ment to teach chefs and his 700-page book Thai Food is con­sid­ered the bi­ble of the cui­sine.) It was a last-minute hol­i­day to Thai­land in the 1980s to Bangkok, where he met his part­ner Tanongsak Yord­wai, which set him on this course. Tanongsak in­tro­duced him to Som­bat Jan­phetchara, a home cook whose mother was raised in one of the old palaces of Bangkok, and she spent months teach­ing him how to cook Thai food. Thomp­son was hooked and has been ever since.

For­tu­nately for Aus­tralia’s east coast, Thomp­son says he will this year open a Long Chim in Syd­ney (where he last opened a restau­rant in the 1990s). So is he happy to be home? “I don’t know,” he says, “I have just been in this bloody kitchen. It could be any­where!” Some­how WISH sus­pects he wouldn’t want to be any­where else but in his bloody kitchen.

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