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Chefs in Bangkok create $25,000 dinner

It’s been billed as the “meal of a lifetime,” a 10-course dinner concocted by world-renowned chefs for the most discriminating palates and — at $25,000 a head — the fattest wallets.
/ Source: The Associated Press

It’s been billed as the “meal of a lifetime,” a 10-course dinner concocted by world-renowned chefs for the most discriminating palates and — at $25,000 a head — the fattest wallets.

And that doesn’t include tax and gratuity.

Few expenses were spared in putting together Saturday night’s culinary extravaganza in Bangkok.

But at this price, even the most talented chefs can find it challenging to give diners their money’s worth.

Antoine Westermann of Le Buerhiesel, the famous restaurant in Strasbourg, France, says he plans to shave 3 1/2 ounces of Perigord truffles — worth about $350 — onto each plate.

“For $25,000, what do you expect?” he said.

Westermann is one of six three-star Michelin chefs — four from France and one each from Italy and Germany — commissioned to fix dinner at the Lebua luxury hotel for 40 “Epicurean Masters of the World.” That’s the title for the event, organized by the hotel to promote Thai tourism.

The menu features complicated creations like “tartare of Kobe beef with Imperial Beluga caviar and Belon oysters” and “mousseline of ’pattes rouges’ crayfish with morel mushroom infusion.”

‘It’s fabulous!’
Guests jetted in from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Deepak Ohri, the Lebua’s managing director, declined to reveal their identities but said they include Fortune 500 executives, a casino owner from Macau and a Taiwanese hotel owner.

“It’s surreal! The whole thing is surreal,” said Alain Soliveres, the celebrated chef of the Taillevent restaurant in Paris.

Soliveres was preparing two of his signature dishes, including the first course: a “’creme brulee’ of foie gras” to be washed down with a 1990 Cristal champagne — a bubbly that sells for more than $500 a bottle, but still stands out as one of the cheapest wines on the menu.

“To have brought together all of these three-star Michelin chefs, and to serve these wines for so many people is just an incredible feat,” Soliveres said ahead of the dinner. “It’s fabulous!”

Chefs submitted their grocery lists to organizers and the ingredients were flown in fresh: black truffles, foie gras, oysters and live Brittany lobsters from France; caviar from Switzerland; Jerusalem artichokes and white truffles from Rome.

Diners will sip their way through legendary vintages, like a 1985 Romanee Conti, a 1959 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a 1967 Chateau d’Yquem and a 1961 Chateau Palmer, considered “one of the greatest single wines of the 20th century,” said Alun Griffiths of Berry Bros. & Rudd, the British wine merchants that procured and shipped about six bottles of each wine for the dinner.

The wine alone cost more than $200,000, Griffiths said.

“Just to have one of these would be a great treat,” he said. “To have 10 of them in one evening is the sort of thing that people would kill for.”

Wine lovers regularly organize exorbitantly expensive tastings in New York, London and Japan but such events are not as common in Thailand, where it would take the average schoolteacher five years to earn $25,000.

“That is a waste of money,” said Rungrat Ketpinyo, 44, who sells Phad Thai noodles for 75 cents a plate from a street cart outside the hotel. “I don’t care how luxurious this meal is. It’s ridiculous.”

‘It’s crazy’
Organizers said most of the profits will go to two charities — Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Chaipattana Foundation — a rural development charity set up by the king of Thailand.

“Expensive is very relative,” said Ohri, the Lebua director. “Some of the world’s best chefs will be cooking their best dishes with the finest vintage wines.”

“It is an experience of a lifetime.”

Organizers scrambled to fill seats at the last minute after 10 Japanese people canceled their reservation, citing safety concerns after the New Year’s Eve bombings in Bangkok that killed 3 people.

To ensure discretion, diners will be escorted to a restaurant on the hotel’s 65th floor in a private elevator, and all staff in possession of cell phones with cameras will have to check the devices at the door.

The chefs confessed they were astonished by the $25,000 price tag. A meal at the own restaurants costs about $260.

“It’s crazy,” Westermann said. “The fact that one meal could be this expensive,” he shrugged. “After this, nothing can shock me.”