Blessing and Curse: New Michelin street food star Jay Fai finds fame tiring

Photos: Michelin
Photos: Michelin

Apparently, international stardom is not all it’s cracked up to be for those that have not been chasing fame.

Jay Fai, the 72-year-old street food maven recently given a Michelin star for her crab omelette and other streetside delights, finds her small shop overwhelmed with diners every day, many waiting two hours for a table.

When she arrives at 3pm, there is already a line outside her Old Town address. She has had to add plastic chairs for those queuing for hours to sit on and people just won’t stop taking pictures of the small chef, her kitchen, or the food.

Secreenshot from Youtube video by Mark Wiens

It’s all a bit much.

It’s been only two weeks since Bangkok’s first Michelin Guide came out — and gave Jay Fai her one-star surprise — but her life has been turned upside down as the critics, bloggers, foodies, and tourists descended. She told the Bangkok Post, “I wish I could give the star back already.”

The taxman is also knocking on her door.

Revenue Department officials have been visiting to discuss what she does and how much she makes. She says that she struggled to keep her business going for many years since — though all agree her food is delicious — not many Thais care to spend THB800 (US$24) per dish in a small, simple restaurant often categorized as street food.

The reason for the high prices is for the generous quantities of high-quality ingredients such as the signature crab omelette that is literally stuffed with crab chunks.

For those not feeling so spendy, her seafood rad noodles are another signature at just THB400 (US$12).

Secreenshot from Youtube video by Mark Wiens

Since getting her star, Jay Fai continues to be the sole cook for the hordes of customers, at the same stall that she took over from her dad decades ago.

One of her daughters, Varisa Junsuta, is worried because her mom seems so tired after a full day at the restaurant. The chef’s other daughter has already planned to leave her job and join the family business now that her help is desperately needed.

Varisa said that the family is honored — but they want to sell food in the way they used to.

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