Thai Chef Regrets Getting a Michelin Star After All the Harm It’s Caused
For many chefs, a Michelin star is considered an exemplary achievement as it immediately elevates one’s status among the world’s elite in the restaurant business.
However, 72-year-old street food star Supinya Junsuta, a.k.a. “Jay Fai”, from Thailand has expressed that she would be better off without the badge of culinary honor as it apparently caused more harm than good to her restaurant, Raan Jay Fai.
It was just a month ago when restaurant-rating French tire company Michelin made its debut in Bangkok, Thailand, awarding 14 locations with one star and three with two stars.
Jay Fai, was among the recipients of a star rating from the very first selection of the Michelin guide Bangkok. However, in an interview with Eater, the Thai restaurateur revealed that she’d rather give the star back to the organization.
“I wish I could give the star back already,” she was quoted as saying.
Known for her signature khai jeaw poo (crab omelet) and poo phad phong karee (stir-fried crab made with curry), the ski goggles-wearing cook famously dubbed as “Mozart of the Wok” became annoyed of the attention her eatery suddenly got. After the recognition, Jay Fai chose not to capitalize on her recognition by raising prices because she wants to retain loyal customers who have been with her before she received the star.
Since the award, her shop has become the go-to destination not only for actual customers who want to try her cooking, but also for some tourists only wanting to snap some Instagram photos.
“Many people come just to see and take pictures and not necessarily to eat,” she lamented.
To cope with the influx of visitors following the prestigious accolade, the small stall was forced to devise a reservation system as lines are now stretching more than two hours long.
Jay Fai, who cooks alone, works from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day (except on her day off on Sundays). She is aided by three waiters and her daughters, Varisa Junsuta and Yuwadee Junsuta, who help manage the queue.
According to Yuwadee, the increased demand brought about by the Michelin star has caused her mother to become tired more easily.
“Customers, nowadays, come with higher expectations and they basically look for the Michelin star sign as well as the Michelin-standard food,” she noted. “But hopefully on their second or third visit, they will come to look for Jay Fai herself, and ask for their favorite dishes like our other regular customers.”
Yuwadee further stressed the higher importance of the recognition that the stall directly receives from customers themselves.
“Before or after Michelin, we see ourselves the same way, while others might see us as a Michelin-star restaurant,” Yuwadee added. “Anyway, Jay Fai is still Jay Fai. Whenever the customers come to us and say that they love our food, we are rewarded a million stars that matter every day.”